Indian Valley Meats

CARE OF GAME IN THE FIELD
By Doug Drum - Indian Valley Meats

Indian Valley Meats - Alaska
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In order to make the best products from your game we need to start with game that has been well taken care of. There are many theories on the best way to take care of game in the field. Personally, I use a proven method that is based on the principles used in the meat processing industry. The aim of this method is to make life harder for bacteria and flies by creating a cool, high-acid environment to slow their growth, limiting their food sources by bleaching out blood, making a protective glaze and by controlling flies.

THE GAME BAG

Never use plastic or woven plastic bags because they tend to hold in the heat and don’t allow for proper air circulation. Always use cheesecloth or a cheesecloth-like material which is strong to carry the meat while it allows for maximum air movement yet still has a tight enough weave to keep flies out. You can find the bags at most sporting goods stores.

TREATING THE BAG: I developed a food-grade citric acid game bag cure that keeps flies off and helps to fight bacteria growth. It’s really helpful in Alaska on long hunts where flies and bacteria are a real threat to meat quality. Ask your local hunting store about it or you can call out to our shop. The cure is a dry concentrate that you mix into one gallon of water. Soak the game bags in the solution for 20 minutes to one hour. Then let them air dry completely (not in the dryer). Finally seal them in a zip lock bag.

RESULTS: Flies may light on the bag but the citric acid burns them and they will not hang around. Also the citric acid helps to reduce bacteria growth. Bacteria grows rapidly at a pH level of 7.0, the natural level of meat. The pH level contained in the cure is around 2.35. The cure will help lower the pH of the meat to around 5.3. The higher the pH the more chance there is of spoiling.

REASON pH LEVEL WILL BE HIGH: If the animal has been running a long way and is excited, its blood sugar level will drop which causes lactic acid in the muscle tissue to be higher and the meat will be darker in color and have an off flavor and texture to it. This is why a clean kill is important.

COOLING THE MEAT

COOL THE MEAT QUICKLY IN WATER: In the field, you want to cool your meat quickly because the sooner the meat is cool, the better the meat will be. You should bleed, gut and skin your animal as soon as you can. Next you need to reduce the temperature of the meat. If you are near a river or lake you can submerge the quarters to bring down the temperature. Do not cool completely in water. Retain enough heat to dry the meat when it comes out of the water. For water cooling, I carry a sheet of visquine and spread it out in a lake of stream. Once the animal is quartered, I lay the meat on the visquine and let it cool for twenty-five minutes to an hour (depending on the mass of the meat).

WHY WATER COOL YOUR MEAT? A bath in a stream or lake speeds the cooling process and bleaches out excess blood that feed bacteria and attracts flies. Alaska game animals have a very large meat mass. Consequently, if takes a long time for the meat to cool down. The cold water temperature of the lakes and streams in Alaska helps expedite the cooling process.

WATER COOLING CONCERNS: (1) I’ve been told by several hunters that you should avoid getting meat wet. This is partially true, you don’t want to leave the meat wet. This is why you retain enough heat in the meat to cause drying once you remove it from the water (also see air drying for procedures to remove excess water). (2). I’ve also heard concerns about Giardia in the water getting into the meat. While I can’t guarantee the purity of the water or possible transfer of bacteria to your meat, I can say that I have never heard of anyone getting sick from water cooled meat, and I talk with a lot of hunters. The decision is yours based upon the conditions at your location, cleanliness of water and outside temperature. Tests have also been done in Canada by Bailight which show the strong acid in citric acid should take care of Giardia and will also help kill types of bacteria.

AIR DRYING/ STORING MEAT IN THE FIELD

AFTER WATER COOLING: After you have brought the temperature of the meat down, you’re ready to begin air drying in the breeze. If you are near water, there is normally a gentle breeze at all times.
Hang the meat in such a way as to take advantage of this air movement. Protect the meat from the warm sun and rain with some sort of shelter. I bring a lightweight tarp for this purpose.

REMOVE EXCESS MOISTURE: Once the meat is hung under the tarp, run your hands down it to squeeze out and remove any excess moisture.

APPLY LEMON JUICE MIXTURE OR CITRIC ACID: Lightly coat the meat with a citric acid mixture (see game bags). This will create a high acid protective glaze over the meat while it is drying. If storing for several days in warm weather, reapply citric acid daily to help reduce bacteria growth.

PLACE IN GAME BAGS: When the meat is dry, it’s ready to place in the game bags and re-hang

FLY TRAP

Flies can spread bacteria and lay eggs, so I keep them down by making a flytrap using Golden Marlin (commercial fly bait, available at Alaska Mill and Feed) and a small piece of black plastic (a black plastic garbage bag is fine).

BUILDING THE FLY TRAP: Eight to ten feet away from your meat lay a couple branches on the ground. Pile scraps of meat on and around the branches. Pour Golden Marlin on and around the scraps of meat. Cut a slit in the center of the garbage bag or black plastic and place the bag loosely over the pile.

HOW IT WORKS: The sun heats the plastic, which heats the meat. The flies are attracted and crawl through the slit in the plastic to the meat. The Golden Marlin kills the flies.

WHEN YOU LEAVE THE AREA: Put the black plastic and the scraps of meat with the Golden Marlin on it in a zip lock baggie and carry it out with you.

WINTER AND COLD WEATHER HUNTING

WHEN HUNTING IN FREEZING TEMPERATURES; The animal should be skinned as soon as possible and then covered with a tarp or plastic after cooling for 20 minutes to 1 hour. If the surface starts to freeze cover the plastic covered carcass with snow to insulate it so that freezing does not occur until rigor mortis sets in. Rigor mortis is the process where the muscle tissue starts to stiffen up, and this may take up to 12 hours. If the carcass freezes before rigor mortis sets in the pH will not drop down to around 5.3 and your meat will not be tender and have as good a flavor.

Good Hunting!

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