I have had a theory for a long time that it is the blood in the deer which causes the gamey flavor. Hunters gut the deer soon after a kill, but they don't bleed it or chill it for hours or days. It takes time to haul it from the woods, then drive home and wait until the next day before visiting the processor. It seems that the blood would be the first part of the animal to spoil.

It is my opinion that the bad reputation of venison’s “gamey” flavor comes from poor processing habits and the serving of meat that is actually rancid or at least borderline.

The key to fresh tasting meat it to get it cool and skinned as fast as possible. Leaving it hot or leaving the hide on will cause it to rot quickly and leave your meat tasting quite “pungent” (i.e.: rotten). This is important whether you plan to butcher the animal yourself or are taking it to a pro. If you leave the hide on longer than necessary or don’t cool the meat quickly, it will have a bad flavor.


Is it true that the gamey taste is caused by spoiled blood in the meat?

4 Answers 4


According to the University of Minnesota Extension (emphasis added):

What causes the wild or gamey taste in venison?

Venison refers to the meat of antlered animals such as deer, moose, elk and caribou. The 'wild' flavor of venison is directly related to what the animal eats. Corn fed deer will have a milder flavor than those that eat acorns or sage. The 'gamey' flavor is more noticeable in the fat. Removing the fat, connective tissue, silver skin, bone and hair during processing lessens the 'gamey' taste. However, undesirable strong flavors are due to inadequate bleeding, delay in field dressing or failure to cool the carcass promptly.

So while some gaminess is simply due to the diet of the wild animals, improper dressing or treatment can be a contributing factor.

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    I did a little experiment with freshly killed deer meat. Some of it was marinated in wine "to take the bad blood out". Some wasn't. The wine treatment is a winner. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:32

The short answer: No, the gamey taste of venison is not a euphemism for rotten.

Factors that may contribute to strong or "gamey" flavor in venison include:

  • the animal's diet (animals that forage a lot of grain from farm fields rather than grasses, wild plants, and nuts have a less gamey flavor)
  • its age (older animals tend to be gamier)
  • the inclusion of large amounts of venison tallow or connective tissue in hamburger or sausage
  • Inadequate bleeding and purging
  • The season the animal is harvested

Poor processing can lead to other off flavors which can include rottenness:

  • Failure to age the meat
  • Delay in field dressing and skinning
  • Bacterial contamination from poor procedure during gutting and skinning
  • Contamination from tools from improper cleaning
  • Contamination from improper removal of tarsal and metatarsal glands
  • Failure to cool meat quickly

As a lifelong hunter I must comment on the debate on what causes the gamey taste in venison.It is actually the blood of the animal if not soaked properly that gives venison the gamey taste.I learned from my Mom as well as generations of hunters before me that soaking the meat for a few days in ice water only makes for the best tasting venison.Also I need to point out that when deer are in the rut,It is the musk of the male deer that causes the strong odor in the meat. The female deer do not produce this musk and are therefore tastier and requires less soaking time to remove the blood from the cuts of meat.When soaking the meat, look for a pinkish to white color of the meat that indicates the meat has purged the blood.Happy hunting!!


As well to add on to the comment above and might be in relation to the cooling and aging of the meat, overcooking it (medium at most) causes it to become gamey and tough. I love the gamey flavor however. Try Colorado Lamb and compare it to New Zeleand Lamb big difference in flavor

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