3 Ways to Spot Spoiled Deer Meat

There are over 35 million deer tags sold each year in the U.S. In recent years that number has been as high as 38 million.

The fact is that deer hunting is a huge pastime and a means of providing nutritional food for your family.

However, with deer being such large animals, it lasts a lot longer than if you got a cut of meat from your local grocery. If the venison isn’t prepared and stored properly, it can quickly spoil.

How to Spot Spoiled Deer Meat

There are three surefire ways of identifying spoiled venison. Color, smell, and texture are good ways to spot spoiled venison.


Venison naturally has a different color than beef or most meats you can find at your local grocery store. Wild venison has a deep red color, almost dark in appearance.

You can judge the color of the meat, both frozen or thawed. Venison should be inspected for spoilage before cooking, as it’s difficult to spot once the meat is cooked.

When inspecting your venison to see if it is spoiled, look for any black, brown, or green colors; this is a certain indicator that your meat has spoiled. Another giveaway that the meat has spoiled is a metallic sheen or shiny-looking colors.

It’s important to know the difference between freezer burn and spoiled venison. You can still eat deer meat with freezer burn once the bad part has been cut away.

Freezer burn venison will be located in one area, whereas spoiled venison will be the whole piece of meat.

Freezer burn meat will be black or grey where the meat got exposed. 

Fresh venison will have a deep dark red color with no shine, and it should not vary color across the cut and should be an even uniformed color according to the cut of meat. That is that a filet may be a different color than a rump steak, but the filet should not vary color throughout.


The next method of identifying spoiled deer meat is by the smell. This may appear obvious, but if you are not used to knowing what fresh venison smells like, you may not know what to look for.

Game meat typically smells different than farm-reared meat. The smell will also depend on the sex of the deer and when it was harvested. A mature buck harvested during rutting season will smell a lot more potent than a doe harvested during the start of the season.

Game meat does have an aroma different from beef, and at first, you may actually think the meat is spoiled. But before tossing it look for these smells first.

Spoiled Deer Meat Smells:

  • Overly sweet smell¬†
  • Sour smell

Normal Deer Meat Smells:

  • Smells like farm animal
  • Earthy smell
  • Musky smell (Normal in rutting deer)


3 Ways to Spot Spoiled Deer Meat

The third method of identifying spoiled deer meat is by examining the texture. 

The process of doing this will depend on how you prepared the meat. If the meat were aged, you would have to peel off the outer layer before inspecting.

For all other meat, you will need to thaw it before examining. Normal deer meat will feel smooth and firm, and you should be able to pick it up and look at it closely and see the grain of the meat.

Spoiled deer meat will feel soft and slimy. The grain of the meat will squish together, and there may be a slime on the outside.

How Long Does it Take for Deer Meat to Spoil?

Venison will begin to spoil after 2-3 days in the fridge. 

However, there are a few things to consider and certain factors to take into consideration.

The proper way to store venison is in the fridge or freezer. If storing venison in the fridge, it is best to store at 40F or lower. At this temperature, the venison will begin to spoil after 3 days.

If you are freezing your deer meat, it will last a lot longer. Version properly stored in the freezer can last up to 12 months.

What Happens if You Eat Spoiled Deer Meat?

As long as the deer was healthy, the effects of eating spoiled deer meat are generally not harmful.

However, if you think your deer meat may be spoiled, it is best not to consume it.

Spoiled deer meat can cause food-borne illnesses from pathogenic bacteria. This may include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Final Thoughts

Venison is considered one of the healthiest meats you and your family can consume. 

To get the most of your venison, it is best practice to ensure proper handling and packaging; this will help your meat last up to 12 months.

Any discolored deer meat or strong smelling odors from the meat will most likely be an indicator that the venison is spoiled and should not be consumed.

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