By Josh Boyd
Very few things in life bring a hunter such an unmetered sense of accomplishment as the sight of fresh quarters of game meat situated within the confines of their cooler. Something, hardwired into our brains, brings a feeling of elation at the thought of the pure, unadulterated protein that we provide for our consumption.
As hunters, we become hard-pressed to find anything that is a comparable substitute for the sustenance that a successful hunt has provided. There is an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes from the enjoyment of a dinner prepared from the game you have harvested while afield.
The moment that a game animal is taken, the journey from field to fork begins. Our game is field dressed and prepared to be quartered and processed. Up to this point, the story regarding how this journey has unfolded differs little from one hunter to the next. However, we now reach a crossroads. A decision must be made as to how we will proceed that can ultimately influence our final product.
The decision to self-process your game or allow a processor to complete the process for you is one that every successful hunter must face. There are many relevant factors when making this decision. The availability of time, equipment, and knowledge all become pertinent items of consideration when deciding whether or not to self-process.
Although the use of a processing house can be beneficial for hunters who simply do not have the free time to invest into handling the process themselves, the list of benefits associated with self-processing are numerous and often wide sweeping.
One such advantage comes in the form of the piece of mind that self-processing generates for a hunter. The truth of the matter is that the moment you relinquish possession of your game to a processing house, you have little control over how the processing process is completed.
Although the majority of processing houses are regulated by outside agencies, the thought of the unknown can be concerning for some hunters. Some of the most commonly voiced concerns by hunters in regards to processing houses include whether the meat received was from their game animal, the legitimacy of food handling practices, and if all usable meat was utilized.
While concerns of this nature are often not substantiated in regards to many processors, these same concerns can be relieved in their entirety by way of self-processing. If you carry out all processing measures from start to finish, you will have overseen the preparation of your game from the moment the trigger was pulled, until the time the game has been served.
Another advantage of self-processing is that you gain the ability to customize the finished product completely. Many processors have a standard way of completing their processing. Cuts are made in a particular manner, the packaging is done by their standard, and limited choices exist when seasoning specialty items.
When you choose to complete the processing of your game, you will gain full creative control. You will be able to select the desired style of cuts, package meat into appropriate meal size portions for your personal needs, and experiment with blends of seasonings and spices when preparing items such as jerky, bratwursts, and summer sausage.
Also of value to many self processors, is the cost effectiveness associated with choosing to take an independent route. Although the need for supplies facilitates at least some expenditure, especially initially, you can commonly process your own game at a fraction of the price that would be required of you at a processor.
Much of the expense that is associated with a trip to the local processor stems from the labor that is required to complete the practice. While the labor and time input that is required for processing a game animal can be quite extensive, those willing to make these sacrifices on their own accord will be rewarded through cost savings.
Perhaps the most prominent case made for conducting your own processing pertains to the sense of accomplishment that is felt by a hunter upon the project’s completion. The satisfaction of knowing that you have seen the process through from the moment that the game was harvested until it graces your family’s table, is almost indescribable to those who have not experienced it.
Much of what drives hunters in their decision to choose the use of a processing house revolves around a level of intimidation that comes with attempting a process that they have little knowledge of. However, much like hunting itself, through trial and error you build proficiency. The best way to become well versed in any endeavor is through persistence.
With every successive effort, you will be assured through your triumphs and learn from your mistakes. With every game animal that you process, you will determine what worked well and what is worth revising. In short order, you will gain a grasp of your personal preference regarding cuts, packaging, and other pertinent matters.
Upon deciding to attempt self processing, some hunters find that it is of benefit to start small and progress gradually. To shorten the impending learning curve, an individual might find that tackling one process at a time is the way to go. By starting with relatively simple tasks such as grinding and packaging game, while waiting to attempt the production of specialty products until a later date, you allow yourself to become proficient on a skill to skill basis as you progress.
With a sense of independence and self reliance, you can easily be on your way to self processing mastery. Although processing your own game meat requires an input of both time and labor, the forthcoming reward is well worth the work. As you enjoy your first bite of fresh game that you have prepared from field to fork, you will find a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that will stay with you long after the meal has ended.