Deers are massive animals, which means they take a ton of time to process. The last thing a person really wants to be doing when they get back from a hunting trip is to spend hours and hours processing their deer. They want to do enough processing to fit the deer into their fridges and leave the rest for another day. But, how long can deer meat stay in a fridge before processing?
Raw deer meat can stay in the fridge for between three to five days. This is assuming that the deer has been refrigerated as soon as possible after the kill, or if some effort has been put into ensuring that the meat doesn’t spoil between the field and fridge i.e. by packing the body cavity with ice.
Let’s explain why that deer meat can’t stay in your fridge for too long unprocessed, and how long you have to tuck into that deer once you have finished processing it.
As soon as a deer dies, bacteria will start to grow at an astonishing rate. A lot of these bacteria will come from the animal. This is because every living creature has both good and bad bacteria inside of it. Some bacteria could come from the environment. Once the animal is dead, there is nothing really to inhibit the growth of the bacteria. The meat is wet and warm. The perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
When you kill a deer in the field, you should be removing the intestines right away. This is going to stop a lot of meat spoilage since a good amount of bacteria (including E. coli) will be living in the gut. This is something that you should do almost right away. You should never store a deer carcass with the intestines in it in the fridge. That deer would be pretty useless, and the meat would likely end up tasting foul.
Assuming the intestines have been removed, an unprocessed deer can be kept in the fridge for three to five days before processing. Although, the sooner you can process the deer, the better. This is because the three to five days are just a guideline. If you were out in a warm field for a day or two with the deer, and it is completely unrefrigerated in that time, then it can’t be stored in the fridge for anywhere near as long. In fact, there is a good chance that it may have spoiled so much that you probably shouldn’t be refrigerating it anyway. You may need to just throw it away. Although, thankfully, that is very rare.
How Long Can Deer Meat Stay in Fridge After Processing?
This will depend on how long the deer has been kept in the fridge already. The maximum amount of time a deer should be kept refrigerated, unprocessed, or processed, is five days. So, if the deer has been kept in the fridge for 3 days before you properly processed it, then any raw meat in the fridge should be consumed within 2 days (at the most).
Of course, deers are huge animals. You probably won’t be eating all that meat within a couple of days. So, when you have processed the meat, freeze it. A deer in the freezer can last a long amount of time, although it will probably lose much of its flavor after 6-12 months.
How Can You Increase Deer Storage Time In The Fridge?
There isn’t much that you can do to extend the lifespan of unprocessed deer in the fridge. You can store the meat in airtight containers, or vacuum-sealed bags. However, these methods aren’t 100% guaranteed to increase the lifespan of the unprocessed deer, and something like vacuum sealing the deer would probably take as long as processing.
Your best bet to increase the lifespan of any deer meat is to process it quickly and then place it in the freezer. It is the only way to slow down bacterial growth.
How Do You Know When Raw Deer Meat Has ‘Expired’?
As we said, the maximum amount of time you can store raw deer meat in the fridge is about 5 days. However, the meat may be unusable well before that (hence why you should process it quickly!). If you spot any of the following happening to your deer meat, then you should throw it away:
- The meat has started to turn a little green. It will only be a hint of green, but you will clearly notice that it is impacting the beautiful brown-red color that deer meat often has.
- If the meat has started to develop a slimy texture.
- If the meat has started to fall apart.
- The meat has taken on a repulsive smell.
Now, when you cook rotten meat it will kill the bacteria in it. However, bacteria will leave behind toxins. These toxins can’t be destroyed by the cooking process. They enter your body, and it is those toxins that make you seriously sick. So, you cannot cook rotten meat to a safe temperature. Once it is clear that the meat is rotting or rotten, it is dangerous to eat.
Unprocessed deer meat should be kept in the fridge for a maximum of 5 days. In an ideal world, you should process it within 2-3 days. Remember, it is important that you remove the intestines from a deer as soon as possible after the kill. The longer they are left in, the quicker the meat will spoil. If you are leaving the meat in the fridge for five days unprocessed, then check it hasn’t rotted before you process it. You may be wasting your time otherwise.