Many families are in need of lean, protein rich meat. Children need protein to grow healthy and strong and adults need it to keep in good health.
However, many are without a good source of meat due to high costs or inaccessibility. With prime deer season just on the horizon, you can help those in need by donating your extra venison.
Missouri’s Share the Harvest program helps deer hunters to donate their extra or uneeded venison to those in need. This program is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation. According to MDC, in 2016, 4,280 hunters donated 198,277 pounds of venison.
Donating is incredibly easy as well. All you have to do is take your deer to a participating processor and tell them how much venison you would like to donate.
The meat will then be processed and picked up later by a local sponsoring organization to be delivered to a charitable agency. It’s that simple.
Any Missourian in need will have access to this donated meat. The charity will allocate the distribution of venison according to supply in order to help as many families as possible.
MDC lists five steps to help those interested in being a participant processor for the Share the Harvest program.
1. Clubs or organizations wishing to coordinate the Share the Harvest program in their area may contact a conservation agent in their county or the Conservation Department at the address on the back panel. Agencies that distribute venison also may fulfill the role of coordinator.
2. Distributing agencies should be nonprofit charitable organizations. They must have proper storage for the meat and agree to distribute uncooked venison directly to families or individuals.
3. The coordinator should locate a deer processor who agrees to participate in Share the Harvest. Processors also must be a government-inspected facility.
4. Once agreements are made with coordinator, deer processors and distributing agencies, permission must be obtained from the Conservation Department to conduct a Share the Harvest program.
5. After the local conservation agent approves the coordinator’s choice of meat processors and distributing agencies, the coordinator will receive written authorization and instructions.
MDC also has a list of guidelines for those wanting to play host to Share The Harvest. It is important to follow each step to ensure that as many families as possible receive help and no meat goes to waste.
1. Requests to participate in Share the Harvest should be submitted to the director of the Conservation Department through a local conservation agent. Requests must include names of participating meat processors and the distributing agency.
2. Meat processors must be licensed by the Conservation Department to process deer and be subject to government health inspection, or be approved by the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Meat Inspection Program.
3. State and local health regulations must be followed.
4. A conservation agent must initially approve the coordinator, processors and distributing agency.
5. Only venison from white-tailed deer legally taken in Missouri will be accepted.
6. Donated venison must be processed at approved meat processing facilities.
7. Records detailing number of donors, pounds of donated venison, and charitable recipient group must be kept by the coordinator, and submitted to the local conservation agent no later than Feb. 1.
8. Donated venison must be stored and transported in department-provided plastic bags that display the Share the Harvest logo, or in approved containers clearly marked with Share the Harvest labels.
9. Venison may not be served cooked by the distributing agency, and must be frozen at some time prior to being eaten.
10. All donated venison must be distributed by May 1.
11. Approval for participation is required annually.
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s website has a full list of counties with participating processors. Both Ruble’s Meat Market in Iron County and Piedmont Processing in Wayne County are participants in venison donations.
For more infortmation on how to become a participating processor, or to learn more about the venison donations, you can visit MDC’s website at https:// huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/ hunting-trapping/species/ deer/deer-share-harvest or call the Share the Harvest program group at 573- 751-4115.