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Meat Processing 101


New Member
This is a question for those that process their own venison etc.. How much of an initial investment did you make in order to get started (on a grinder, stuffer, smoker, whatever) How long would you say it took to break even? How much work do you put into one large bodied deer?

As you can guess, I have thought about processing my own venison, but I'm not sure as to what the minimum amount of equipment one needs to buy to be serious about it - to make jerky, sausage, sticks...


$10 - Rapala fillet knife
$150 - Dehydrator

Making jerky so hot that it requires dipping the toilet paper in the water before "cleaning"...



I use a grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. They also make a sausage attachment, but I haven't used it. Kohls has good prices on the mixers and attachments. I think the grinder was fifty bucks and it works great.

I make jerky in the oven set at warm with the door propped open. For the sticks I think the jerky shooter kit was around thirty bucks.

I also use a FoodSaver vaccum sealer for the burger, roasts, steaks etc. You could wrap everything in butcher paper but this is a LOT quicker. I think they are around 125 bucks? I got it at Sams.

Doing your own butchering is a little work, but I find it very rewarding and would never pay anyone to do it. Oh, and you might want to get a book with good pictures. That helped me a lot.


I have taken boned out meat to the local locker for them to grind. They have done it dirt cheap and it comes back wrapped in the 1 or 2 lb packages quick frozen. I spend lots of time making sure I only have red meat in the tub, no fat, sinew or gristle.

Did a batch of jerky in the Brinkman smoker last weekend. It was a front quarter and I did it in a hurry. A tad gamey in spots but pretty decent overall. Kind of pains me to make jerky out of loins

I don't have any processing equipment other than a knife. I have a few meat saws but don't use them. I don't like smearing bone dust and marrow across the meat. Probably a good idea to avoid cutting bones now a days because of possible CWD (don't cut the deer in half down the spine).


New Member
3/4 hp meat grinder - $360
propane smoker - $150
7 gallon meat mixer - $190
44-pound meat scale - $39

I split the costs on a couple items with my neighbor. We are processing 8 deer this year. A couple weeks ago, we made 75 pounds of brats, and 75 pounds of ring bologna. With all costs figured in, including pork (mixed at 40%), paper, casings, cures, seasonings, cheese and propane - we were at $1.20 per pound. And I would suggest that these are at least as good, and I believe much better, than what we used to get from a locker. Plus, it's kind of a guy thing to spend time with my neighbor working on them. In a strange way, it's sorta fun.


Life Member
Doesn’t anyone have any negative things to say about processing the venison that you harvest?

Can’t you inflate the cost of the grinders, smokers, and tell Avidhunter that it takes months to make a pound of ground jerky. That you have to check the smoker every 10 minutes 24 hours a day for two months?

Can’t anyone tell Avid how bad the meat taste when you do it on your own?

Come on folks, Avidhunter and I hunt together....he is going to want ME to pay for half of this investment!


Camo Man
sounds like a good time to me I can't think of anything else I would wanna do with a neighbor....drink frostys...and smoke meat lol


New Member
Shovel, are you gonna be at the Classic this year? If so, I could be persuaded to bring a 'gift bag' of bologna and brats. I added in a small amount of shredded cheese to my batch. It adds just a small amount of cheese flavor, but makes it a bit juicier. My neighbor dries and grinds up jalapenos and adds quite a bit of that to his batch. Tried one of them - decided I like mine better, because they don't make me cry. You gotta love them brats !


Camo man
you ever tried to make bolagna with the jalepeno cheese in it? the stuff we get from the locker is pretty good I wish I knew how to make my own that is all I wold eat


Active Member
I would highly recommend the 3/4hp grinder from Cableas. It is very well made and has all the power you would ever need. The 1/3hp would probably be plenty actually. 3 friends and myself split one of these, plus 4 of their meat tubs, came to about $100 each. The local locker charges $.50/lb to grind burger, so I figure this will pay me back in less than 3 yrs. And, I have the comfort of knowing that I get back MY meat, processed the way I want it. If pressed, most lockers will tell you that your not getting your own deer back, especially after shotgun season opens up. It would take them forever to do each batch seperately.
You'll need atleast 2 of those meat tubs to grind one deer, but I like to have 3 or 4. They work nice for $6 each.


If you don't have the equipment or don't want to deal with stuffing sausage in casings, you can just grind it, season it, and package it. Sometimes Hy-Vee and Fareway will sometimes sell you packets of Breakfast, Italian, and Cajun sausage seasoning for around $2. Considering that each of these packets will season 25 to 50 lbs. of meat, it is very cheap and very good. You can also find recipes for ground brat patties that are pretty good. Just another way to keep things cheap and simple.


New Member
Renobber, I used a 3-cheese blend of Jalapeno, salsa, and chedder cheese. I used 24 ounces per 25 pound batch, and got about 100 brats per batch, so that figures out to a 1/4 ounce per brat.

TimberPig, we have that Cabela's grinder, and it is awesome. We grind a lot of deer for jerky, and that makes short work of it. Plus, each batch of bologna has to be ground twice. Wouldn't want to be without it. We are toying with the idea of getting a vertical hand-crank stuffer, because it gets to be a chore to stuff the bologna or brat mixture into the grinder neck after it gets gummy.


Active Member
I also use the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. I usually cut all of the hind quarters into to jerky meat, straps into steak, and the balance to include all trimmings into burger. I mix beef tallow to about 3% so the burger will hold together and won’t burn in the pan. I have purchased freezer plastic and paper from the local Fareway. The large rolls are pricy but last for ever and your meat stores very well with plastic then paper wrapping. I also like to work in the garage if it is cool enough. The new style folding tables, with the plastic top, make a great portable work surface and are good for many other function. I prop these up about 5 inches to help with the back strain. I agree with others above that it is rewarding but a bit of work. I don’t expect to ever pay for processing again. Most of the items you would use could have second uses and be more practical or you could really specialize your system but the expense would increase. If your wife could use that Kitchen Aid blender it would make a great gift. Some how my Barb thought I was full of it on that one.


New Member
I have butchered about 40 deer the last few years for myself and friends. This is how I do it.

1. bone out everything myself.
2. packagage steaks and roasts in saran wrap, then freezer paper. No problem with freezer burn.
3. Grind trimmings with about 20% of the cheap burger from fareway. To make your deerburger.
4. If I want any sausauge made I take it to Ridgeport north of Boone, they do a great job, and only charge about a 1.39 a pound.
5. bought a 40 dollar dehydrator from walmart and make my own jerky.

All said and done I have spent about 60 dollars between a dehydrator and knive sharpeners. I have a friend with a grinder so that helps alot on cost. At the end of this year I butchered 7 of my own deer and got alot of meat, and about 50 pounds of sausage made and it cost me about 120 dollars for packaging, and processing at thelocker, and seasoning for my jerky.

As a side note I have not bought store bought meat for about 5 years except for burger to mix with my deer. I have alot of fun doing butchering my own deer, I know what I am getting, and I do not have to buy meat at the store.


Actually, I kind of enjoy cutting up my own deer. I typically cut the loins into about 10" sections for the grill and maybe make a few butterfly chops. The hind quarters I bone out and make steaks and roasts.

The front quarters get ground up for burger and jerky. I've got a Proctor-Silex grinder similar to the one Cabela's sells for $99 ... got mine on a garage sale for $8 (needed a $2 plastic gear on the auger replaced). It's not fast but does a great job for no more than I run through it. I use a jerky shooter and do about three pounds at a time in the oven ... takes most of a day on low --- @ 180 degrees.

Right now, I use Ziplock freezer bags and pack 'em as airfree as I can. I keep watching sales for a FoodSaver vacuum sealer. Will have one before next season.

Like others, I mix a little bit of beef tallow with the burger meat to help it hold together better.
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