Can You Eat Venison [Deer Meat] Raw or Pink? Is it Safe?

Venison is not only popular in the UK and the US, but also in other parts of the world like Spain and New Zealand. It is a high source of protein and has fewer calories than …

undercooked deer meat pink

Venison is not only popular in the UK and the US, but also in other parts of the world like Spain and New Zealand. It is a high source of protein and has fewer calories than other types of red meat. But can you enjoy it raw or rare?

Raw or undercooked venison is not safe. It is recommended to cook venison to a safe internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C) for roasts and steaks, 160 °F (71.1 °C) for ground venison and sausages, and 165 °F (73.9 °C) for others.

Moreover, the meat shouldn’t come from a deer shot in the wild.

How can you prepare and store venison safely, and how should you order it at restaurants? All the answers are detailed below.

Can You Eat Venison Raw? 

According to research, eating raw or undercooked venison may not be safe because of pathogenic contamination, which is discussed in the next section. Venison that came from antlered animals like deer that are shot in the wild is also unsafe.

A study was conducted to examine 30 carcasses drawn from whitetail deer shot by hunters with guns loaded with lead bullets. The carcasses showed extensive metal fragment dispersion. Of the 30 carcasses turned into ground meat, 80% of them contained lead. 

The researchers conducted another study and fed the venison to pigs. The pigs’ blood results showed significant amounts of bioavailable lead (source: Lead Bullet Fragments in Venison from Rifle-Killed Deer: Potential for Human Dietary Exposure).

Furthermore, the organs of these antlered animals, such as the liver, kidneys, brain, and gizzard are not to be consumed, since lead accumulates in the organs. They can contain other metals too, as well as chemicals.

Chemicals used in many manufacturing and industrial plants could infiltrate and persist in the environment where the wild animals live. These chemicals can accumulate in the animals’ bodies. 

undercooked venison steak on a plate

Some of these chemicals and metals include:

  • Dioxins
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • (PCBS)
  • Per- and polyfluoroalklyl substances (PFAS)
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury

So, what could happen if you ingest these?

These compounds and metals may result in the development of diabetes and cancer, depreciated immune and thyroid functions, issues with fertility, and strained brain development in children (source: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services).

Lead can negatively affect neurological, cardiovascular, renal, skeletal, hematopoietic, and reproductive functions when it accumulates in the body (source: Journal of Hazardous Materials Advances). 

Therefore, whether rare or cooked meat, it is best to avoid venison that was shot in the wild.

While it’s true that some meats can be eaten raw safely, it is crucial to consider the safety of consuming raw venison. Venison tartare may also be unsafe, as found in many research studies discussed below.

Can Raw Venison Make You Sick? Does it Have to be Cooked?

Undercooked venison has been in the limelight for being linked to toxoplasmosis infection.

According to a 2017 study, a retreat was held wherein never-frozen purposely undercooked venison was served to the attendees. Nine out of the eleven attendees who consumed the venison had to seek help.

They experienced myalgia, body aches, fatigue, fever, sweats, arthralgias, lymphadenopathy, chest pain, shortness of breath, blurred vision, and more. 

It was discovered that the Toxoplasma gondii that caused their human infection came from contaminated undercooked venison (source: Clinical Infectious Diseases). 

A study in 2019 published the possible first encounter and report of food poisoning caused by Sarcocystis truncata. The incident took place in Japan, where a 67-year-old man’s illness was attributed to the raw consumption of venison.

Sarcocystis infection can lead to intestinal sarcocystosis with symptoms of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea (source: Internal Medicine). 

Also in Japan back in 2004, researchers found out that eating raw venison can result in hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection (source: Journal of Medical Virology). 

Raw venison can also be a vehicle for Mycobacterium bovis, which can cause bacterial infections in the gut and lungs, as well as symptoms such as fever, night sweats, chest pain, abdominal pain, and weight loss. If untreated, it can lead to death (source: FDA). 

grilled deer meat pink

When buying venison, make sure to purchase from a reliable seller or store. Do not buy the wild-caught type of meat, or at least make sure the animal was not shot with lead bullets. 

Make sure to clean all utensils, tools, and surfaces that come into contact with the raw meat. This means cleaning them before and after handling the venison. You can use 1 teaspoon of kitchen bleach in every quart of water for a simple disinfectant. 

Chill venison at no more than 40°F (4.4°C). For longer storage, you can freeze it. In the fridge, it will keep for 1–2 days, and in the freezer for up to 1 year. Ground venison meat can keep for 6–9 months (source: Utah State University: Preserve the Harvest Extension). 

Have you ever wondered how long venison can remain cold in the fridge or on ice? Proper handling and storage are crucial to maintain its quality. Familiarizing yourself with the guidelines for storing venison correctly is valuable. It helps preserve freshness and enhances the optimal flavor.

Because venison is a lean meat, cooking it for too long will dry it out. But to keep it safe, you will need to cook venison steaks and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C)

Ground venison or venison sausage should be at 160 °F (71.1 °C), while soups stews, stews, casseroles, and leftovers should be at 165 °F (73.9 °C).

To achieve these cooking temperatures, it is best to use a food thermometer (source: University of Minnesota Extension: Cooking venison for flavor and safety).

Can You Eat Pink Deer Meat? 

Venison steak cooked at this temperature is medium rare and still pink inside. And because it is still rare, we recommend cooking or having it cooked at least medium well to make it safer. 

When ordering at a restaurant, make sure the venison isn’t wild-caught. Burgers and sausages made from venison have to be cooked at a minimum of 160 °F (71.1 °C). At this temperature, the meat will be well-done and won’t probably have any pinkish tint.

Venison is an excellent source of high-quality protein and also provides essential amino acids, iron, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and zinc. Just make sure to prepare it safely for you, your family, or your friends.

Are you curious about the potential side effects of consuming deer meat, commonly known as venison? Check out my guide to learn about the various ways it can affect our bodies.