Venison is a Healthy Choice, But Handle it with Care

By University of Mo. Extension

First posted on 11-16-2007

Venison graces the table in many households this time of year.

From a nutritional perspective, it is a great choice according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

“Venison is a great source of protein that has significantly less fat than beef and pork,” said Roberts.

Three ounces of deer meat contains 134 calories and has only three grams of fat. The same amount of beef can contain 259 calories and 18 grams of fat; pork, 214 calories and 13 grams of fat.

As with all protein-based foods, it is especially important to handle venison with care to prevent food borne illness in the people who consume it.

Eating fresh venison is not recommended because parasites and tapeworms are common.

Roberts says it is best to freeze venison for 24 to 48 hours before eating or using it to make sausage or jerky. This will kill parasites and tapeworms. Cooking to 160 degrees will also kill these parasites.

Jerky and sausage made from venison is a favorite in many households. It also must be handled with care to prevent bacterial growth.

“E.coli is present in the intestinal tract of deer and can survive in homemade jerky and fermented sausages like pepperoni. Jerky made from venison should be steamed, roasted or boiled to 160 degrees before drying,” said Roberts.

When cooking venison, sausage, deer bologna, ground venison, chops, steaks and roasts should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soups, stews, casseroles and meatloaf should be cooked to 165 degrees. When reheating leftovers, assure they reach 165 degrees.

“Venison can tend to be dry and less tender but there are ways to add moisture and flavor. To decrease the gamey flavor, soak the meat in a solution of two tablespoons of vinegar per quart of water for an hour before cooking. To keep meat from getting too dry, rub the roast with some oil before cooking,” said Roberts.

Marinades are also a great way to add flavor and also tenderize the meat. Some things venison can be marinated in include French dressing, Italian dressing, tomato sauce, and fruit juice among others.

“You can get too much of a good thing though. Marinating for more than 24 hours can break down the meat fibers and make it mushy,” said Roberts.

For more information on this and other nutrition issues, contact any of the University of Missouri Extension offices in southwest Missouri, go online to or contact one of the two nutrition and health education specialists working in the Ozarks: Tammy Roberts, (417) 682-3579 or Terry Egan, (417) 866-3039.