Harvesting a deer is only part of the experience, furthered by delivering your harvest to the table. But what does it cost to process a deer so that you and your family can enjoy the benefits of your hunt?
Hunting was once done for survival. A successful hunt was not measured by antler size or a mount on the wall.
The hunter and his family depended on the harvest for their next meal. Although hunting has become a recreational sport the experience still includes processing your harvest into usable table fare.
Not every hunter possesses the knowledge and experience needed to butcher a deer and will turn to a professional to provide these services. But this service is not free, and hunters need to consider this additional cost when deciding to head out into the woods.
What Does it Cost to Process a Deer?
The cost to process a deer will vary and depends on several factors. Not only do prices vary greatly depending on the regional standards, but there are also many additional services available.
Some of these details, such as skinning or field dressing, are necessary for the overall processing of your deer. Others, such as what cuts of meat or special products you desire, are a matter of personal choice.
Regardless, they will each add to the overall cost.
To give you a better idea of the cost let’s look at what is available from multiple professional processers in different regions of the US.
|Ground Burger||included in basic||$0.90/lb.||$0.40/lb.||$0.60/lb.|
|Add Pork||$3.00/lb.||$2.99/lb.||$2.00/lb.||Market Price|
As you can see, the prices for even the most popular services can vary. Plus, some products are regional favorites and may not be available everywhere or may cost more than normal.
Price alone should not be the measure of which butcher to use. There are some other aspects of how your deer will be processed that need to be considered.
Will your deer be individually processed or mixed with meat from multiple animals?
Although the co-mingling of meat often results in a lower price, due to reduced labor cost, it means you will not be receiving YOUR deer but parts of many deer.
How is the meat packaged? Will it be vacuum packed, which allows for longer storage, or wrapped in butcher paper? Is the process CWD safe?
The expanding danger of CWD means that it is much safer to process a deer without cutting the spine. If bones are to be cut some shops will utilize a different set of saws.
Are there any additional costs to be considered? Some shops will charge extra for field dressing, waste disposal, or even returning the hide.
If you are concerned about any of the specific aspects of how your deer will be processed make sure you ask upfront. Once the job is done the shop will expect the bill to be paid, even if it is more than you expected.
Cost to Process a Deer at Home
So, after seeing the prices for deer processing, some of you may be asking “can I do it myself”? The answer is yes. Hunters have been processing their wild game for centuries, so it is certainly possible.
Many outdoorsmen still process all their harvest and find it to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of hunting. The big question is “do you have what it takes to process a deer?”
The two biggest hurdles a new hunter will face when it comes to DIY deer processing are
- the skills and knowledge needed
- access to the correct equipment.
The skills and knowledge needed are easy enough to overcome. You can have an experienced friend help or accept that the first couple of attempts will be part of the learning process.
This might reduce your ability to make some of the more complex mixtures or cause you to sacrifice some product but that will no longer be an issue after your skills build.
Having access to the correct equipment is a little harder to overcome. Unless you have a friend or family member who already processes deer you will need to purchase some basic equipment.
Let’s look at the costs associated with setting up a butchering station.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of equipment you may need. Depending on what you want to make from your deer additional items, such as a sausage stuffer or dehydrator, may be needed. Nor is this a list of “must-haves”.
It is possible to process a deer without some of these items, such as a vacuum sealer, but it is much easier if you do have at least these items.
Some money can be saved by purchasing used items or manual rather than an electric grinder, cheaper quality knives, or using what is already available. Processing your deer does carry a sizeable price tag. However, for many items, the cost is upfront and not reoccurring.
If you process multiple deer per season, or other species as well as deer, it does not take much time to recoup your investment.
Hire or DIY?
Which is the best choice for your – hiring a butcher or going alone and processing your deer? For many hunters, even those who have the knowledge necessary or access to the equipment needed, the answer comes down to one of time.
When it comes to processing a deer, the largest investment is time – either yours or someone else’s. When paying a processor, the majority of your bill is for labor costs. If doing it yourself, you need to determine what your time is worth.
Before you make your final decision let’s take a look at some of the benefits of each option.
- Has the knowledge needed to provide you with the best tasting meat without unnecessary waste.
- Work is done in a clean, sterile environment and should come free of health concerns.
- Professional packaging will allow the meat to last longer and maintain its flavor when stored.
- Having a cooler and large workspace allows for a better, more controlled aging and processing of your deer.
- You learn a new skill you can use for years to come.
- Personal control over what is done with your deer.
- Specialty cuts are simply a matter of how much time you want to invest without additional cost.
- The feeling of accomplishment when you can harvest and prepare your deer from friends or family from the field to the table.
So, there you have it, the cost of processing a deer wither by a professional butcher or DIY style. The choice you make is a personal one and each hunter will need to make their own decision regarding which method is best for them. The end goal is to not only harvest deer but also utilize that deer to the best of your ability.