Elk Butchering & Preparation Information
Elk Butchering & Preparation Information
There are quite a few different opinions on best way to process wild game. The most important factor above all is food safety. You will be feeding your family and friends. Be as clean as possible to avoid food born bacteria growth. It is generally accepted that dressing the animal in the field is preferred. Field dressing not only lightens the animal, but drains it of body fluids. Try to dress the elk as soon as possible after taking it. Dressing with the elk on a just slightly downhill slope will aid in draining all the body fluids. This is paramount for reducing the “gamey” flavor many associate with venison.
When hunting in cooler weather, dressing helps bring down the internal temperature faster. Have a few bags of ice to pack inside on hand if you plan to process your elsewhere. The faster you drain, dress, and cool, the higher the quality of your meat. Some people believe that leaving a meal for scavengers, and predators will reduce the odds they follow you to take your kill. There is a legitimate benefit to nature by field dressing. The fluids fertilize the forest floor and the entrails feed scavengers.
Field Elk Butchering: Field butchering breaks the animal down into manageable pieces to carry out. This method requires having your packaging materials in the field. There is a greater risk of attracting predators though. The illustration gives you a general idea of what is involved. You will have to break about 200 pounds of elk down to portable pieces. Sometimes, this is the only option if you are in a remote area, or in rugged terrain. A good quality field butchering kit is essential. Try not to break your kill down any more than absolutely necessary. Wait until you get back to your camp or home to finish processing your kill. If you’re going to eat, eat well.
DIY Elk Butchering: DIY butchering is bringing the whole animal in from the field to process in your home kitchen. This is probably the most common way hunters process wild game. Processing your own elk is definitely possible. Having a culinary background is extremely helpful, but not necessary. Think about the kind of cuts you would like before you start. Have a few large coolers of ice on hand to keep your cuts cold while you work. Invest in a good quality set of knives and cut gloves. It makes the work much easier, and safer. Start by breaking down to halves, then quartering. Work through the quarters keeping your cuts organized. Save your trimmings in food safe containers for processing into sausage or ground meat. Be sure to rinse each cut lightly under running water to ensure no stray hairs remain. Tie or net your roasts for a more attractive appearance. Vacuum sealing is by far the best option for freezing your elk. Pack steaks, chops, and roasts separately. Individual portions ensure that you only thaw what you need for a meal. Vacuum sealed meat will keep for a year or longer in the freezer.
Professional Elk Butchering: Professional Elk Butchering is the easiest, but costliest option. However the advantages may outweigh the cost. Your once in a lifetime elk will be expertly processed by a trained professional and packaged to exacting standards. A trained butcher can process your elk into just about any meat product you want. Discussing your desired specialty cuts such at crown roasts, or steaks. Your wild game will come marked “Not For Sale”. This is due to USDA regulations. The marking is to state that you are using your meat for your personal use. USDA inspection is required though if you plan to use it in a commercial setting such as a restaurant. Your wild game will take up to a week to process depending on the complexity of your order. Most butchers ship meat frozen for food safety reasons. Date and label everything when it arrives. Your meat should be good for a year or longer in the freezer. Professional processing makes shipping your meat home from remote hunts a realistic option. Commercial processors have ready access to the appropriate packaging and shipping sources to ensure delivery.
Elk meat is a lean red meat. Wild elk doesn’t have the hormones often given to commercially available red meat options. Elk can be used in a wide variety of recipes in place of beef. Forest elk tend to eat grasses and berries. This produces a lean slightly sweet flavor. There are several commercial wild game butchers online. They stock a dizzying array of options. The Elk Section of my recipe blog has an ever growing list of recipes written specifically to enhance the natural flavors of wild game.
If hunting isn’t a possibility for you, try one of these online wild game vendors.
Elk USA have been around for a while and have a devoted following. Their prices are more than fair. I’ve ordered from them a few times and was very pleased. They stock everything from ground meat to whole butchered elk.
Sayersbrook Bison Ranch stocks a pretty good selection of elk meat.