When I killed my first deer back in 1988, we took a few photos, drove it around town on the hood of the truck, and then hauled it to the local meat processor for the chore of preparing the meat for the table. At the time, the basic processing fees for a deer was around $40. Today, the price has likely doubled, I’m sure.
Years ago, when I began to kill more than one deer a year, I started processing my own deer meat. My wife bought me a $99 Cabela’s meat grinder for Christmas the first year we were married. Since that time, I’ve added a number of parts and pieces to the mix as I continue to build out my meat processing tools. There are some tools that I’ve learned I can live without, and there are some I rely on every time I set up shop.
If you’re looking to start tackling your own butchering chores this year, here’s a look at the top tools for processing your own meat.
Field Dressing Knife - Having the tools in your pack to break down your animal quick and clean is the key to quality meat for the table. A knife that allows you to quickly cut, gut, and/or quarter out your deer is standard equipment for every hunter. Don’t leave home without your knife.
Cooler - Once you begin to break your deer down, you need to have a quality cooler close by to begin the cooling process. Whether in camp, or the back of the truck, a cooler needs to be a part of every hunt for the cooling and transfer of meat.
Butcher Kit - A butcher kit makes the processing chores much easier by providing all the tools you need for the various tasks of preparing meat for the table. This kit will include specialty blades, saw, sharpener, and rib cage spreader.
Meat Grinder - The meat grinder is the go-to piece for processing your own game. There are endless recipes that’ll call for ground venison, making the grinder a must-have item for any home processor.
Sausage Stuffer - The sausage stuffer allows you to dive into specialty meats, sausages, and snack sticks. A 5 lb stuffer is a nice addition to your processing gear that’ll allow you to take your processing game to the next level.
Digital Scale - A digital scale may be one of the most overlooked tools on our list. However, it’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to measuring out portions for making sausage, jerky, and meat packaging.
Jerky Gun - The jerky gun makes short work of the jerky making chores, regardless of whether you prefer sticks or strips. You simply stuff your seasoned ground venison into the gun and squeeze out sticks or strips for the dehydrator. Most guns come with multiple size options and attachments.
Meat Slicer - If you prefer sliced jerky rather than ground, a meat slicer makes things fast and easy. It works equally well for other cuts of meat and steaks. Yes, you can get by without it, but you’ll quickly discover the benefits of having it from the first time you put it to work.
Dehydrator - Making your own jerky is the perfect way to stock up on homemade snacks to enjoy throughout the year. Don’t spend the money buying overpriced, store-bought jerky. Make your own! The dehydrator is an easy way to make it happen.
Vacuum Sealer - The vacuum sealer is a really nice addition to your meat processing kit. Some may consider it a luxury item, however, once you use one, you’ll realize you don’t want to pack meat without it. It’s the perfect option for clean and tidy packaging of your meat. Vacuum sealed meats will also last longer and are more resistant to freezer burn than other packaging options.
What about you? What are your favorite tools for processing your own meat? What items would you add to our list?