I thought they would eat anything. I have had friends from Louisiana tell me about growing up eating shoepick (gaspergoo) and night herons. Others have talked about building traps to catch blackbirds. They are tasty, they say, it just takes a lot of them to make a meal.
With the right seasonings they believe anything can be made edible.
Not everyone apparently has gotten the message about laissez les bons temps rouler or let the good times roll. Most notable of those missing the memo was the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
The LDHH recently confiscated 1,600 pounds of venison from a Shreveport-area homeless shelter and ordered it destroyed. It was taken from the facility, placed in a dumpster and covered with bleach.
The meat had been donated by a local Hunters for the Hungry program that has been providing venison to the needy since 1993.
According to reports, the chef for the shelter asked officials if instead of being destroyed the meat could be transferred to another facility or given to individuals. He was told no.
So lost was 6,400 four-ounce servings of quality protein that could have fed someone.
The shelter reportedly feeds about 200,000 meals a year without any assistance from state or federal governments. Although 3,200 meals is a drop in the dinner bucket, it is still meals that the organization didn’t have to worry about.
For its part the LDHH said its rules do not allow wild venison to be served in a shelter, restaurant or other public easting establishment. Agency officials also said the bleach was necessary so animals would not eat the meat and become sick.
For its part, the group providing the meat to the shelter had it processed at an USDA certified processor, but it should be noted the certification doesn’t cover venison.
Not surprisingly the LDHH action has been condemned by the shelter, the group that supplied the meat and a lot hunters. One of those hunters is a Louisiana state representative who had donated meat to the cause. He said changes will be coming.
The same can’t be said about venison. The hunter is the wild card. Meat quality and freshness is completely dependent on how the hunter handles it from the shot to the processor.
On this side of the Sabine we also have a Hunters for the Hungry program. Operated by the Texas Association of Community Action Agencies, the program collected more than 150,000 pounds of venison during the 2011 season, the last year records are available. That meat was distributed through 100 organizations serving low income families across the state.
In Tyler the program goes through Lynch’s Food Store. With the support of the East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation, hunters have been able to donate their excess venison for free. Two years ago Lynch’s processed 1,800 pounds of meat that was donated to the hungry. This year, with a reduced harvest statewide, the program produced about 1,200 pounds.
Lynch’s owner, Joe Lynch, said there are not a lot of rules placed on the processor by TACAA.
“All they say is that we are only to accept clean, wholesome, unspoiled meat. I wouldn’t accept anything else anyway,” said Lynch.
Lynch agrees that the hunter is the key to good venison, and he said in the vast majority of the cases what meat comes into his store is in good shape.
“I have been processing deer since 1988. Knock on wood I have not had one incident of someone coming back and saying they got food poisoning off any deer. There is no telling how many deer I have done since 1988, probably 20,000. There are some I have thrown away, but there is nothing I am going to process that I wouldn’t eat myself,” he said.
Programs like Hunters for the Hungry are a win-win. They allow hunters and landowners to remove excess deer while feeding those who might otherwise have little or no protein in their diet.
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