Basic Deer Butchery Guide

The aim of this guide is to provide a basic introduction to venison butchery covering the primal breakdown of a venison carcass. Note that once a carcass is skinned, it is no longer a “primary product” but becomes venison

  • The carcass should be skinned as soon as it has been hung in the cold-room . The carcass should then remain hung in the larder initially to enable the heat to dissipate from the carcass slowly in the first 6 hours after skinning. This will ensure the full and rapid onset of rigor mortis and will prevent ‘cold shortening’ of the soft muscles in the carcass. The carcass should be hung in a chilled environment with good air flow at 0° to 4° C for up to 10 days to ensure tenderness and the desired maturation level. There should be no contact with other carcasses and skinned carcasses should be hung separately from any that are unskinned . Whether primary cuts are made with the carcass suspended or lying flat on a cutting table will be down to individual experience and preference.
  • Begin by ensuring that all work areas, equipment and hands are clean

Neck removal

  • The shoulder blocks are removed from the main part of the carcass by opening the seam indicated (figs. 2 & 3) and following the shape of the blade bone.
  • The shoulder block consists of three sections containing the blade bone, humerus bone and the fore leg. To prepare the shoulder, these are removed separately starting with the blade bone (fig.5). Once completed the process is repeated on the other side of the carcass. The shoulder block can be further broken down into smaller cuts (fig.4).

Forequarter removal

  • Make an incision between the 5th and 6th rib (counting from the neck end), saw through the sternum bone (fig.6).
  • Make a square cut to the backbone and then saw through the backbone keeping the saw in line with the ribs. Take care to only saw through bone and not into the underlying muscles on the opposite side of the carcass.
  • Follow the saw cut with a steak knife following the rib to remove the pair of forequarters by sawing through the sternum on the other side of the carcass (fig.7). Make sure that all bone dust is removed from both surfaces.

Splitting the aitch bone

  • Using a steak knife cut exactly in the centre of the 2 haunches onto the pelvic bone, exert some pressure on the knife. In a young animal the aitch bones will divide through the cartilage. On older animals a saw will be needed to part the 2 haunches. Make sure that if a saw is used all bone dust is removed from both surfaces.

Breakdown of the hindquarters

  • The following processes are carried out on the cutting table for ease of operation.

Flank removal

  • The first part of the operation involves the removal of the flanks. Make a cut parallel to the backbone of the carcass to finish at the ribs – the length of the ribs can be decided by the size of the carcass. This is indicated by the area in blue.
  • Make the ribs longer so that the loins maybe rolled into joints at a later stage if required or cut shorter for steaks. Repeat the process on the other side of the hindquarter.

Kidney and suet fat removal

  • The kidneys and fat surrounding them is removed carefully by easing away the suet from the abdominal cavity, take extreme care not to cut into any underlying muscles when carrying out this operation.

Tenderloin removal

  • To enable the carcass to be broken down into hunches and a saddle the tenderloins are removed completely first.
  • Cut around the head of the tenderloin and cut away from the pelvic bone.
  • To remove the tenderloins follow the vertebrae on each side of the carcass to remove completely intact.  The lumbar vertebrae have ‘T’ bones that are exposed when the tenderloins are removed.

Saddle removal

  • The saddle is prepared using a sheet boning method to remove the striploins from each side of the vertebrae. Care must be taken to ensure that the knife is always pressed onto the ribs.

Haunch removal

  • Situated on top of the pelvic cavity the point where the sacrum (tail) is connected to the aitch bone is a fused joint. This can be opened by inserting a boning knife at the angle illustrated. Follow the division towards the tail area and the haunch falls away.
  • Cut around the end of the aitch bone as shown in the picture. The process is then repeated on the other side to remove the opposite haunch. The haunch can be further broken down into smaller cuts (see illustrations).
fig 1
A: neck B: shoulder C: forequarters D: saddle E: haunch F: flank
fig 2
neck removal: any bloody meat should be removed from under the neck at this stage as this will be discoloured and deteriorate quickly if left on the neck
fig 3
shoulder block removal: open the seam by gently pulling away the fore leg and the seam will open to allow better access. Care should be taken not to cut into underlying muscles
fig 4
the underside of the shoulder blade bone is now visible under fingers
fig 5 , shoulder block muscle group: A: inner blade − diced; B: feather – diced and casserole; C: blade – diced and casserole; D: thick rib – braising steaks; E: clod − mince; F: fore shin – shin and mince; G: flat blade – diced and mince
fig 6
boning out the shoulder
fig 7
using a knife to remove forequarters
fig 8
continuing with a knife after sawing the backbone
fig 9
dividing the haunches
fig 10
flank removal (distance is variable)
fig 11
right hand holds head of the tenderloin; knife is separating the pelvic bone from the tenderloin;
fig 12
working on the saddle: maintain knife pressure on ribs
fig 13
note angle of knife used to ease the aitch bone (here outlined for identification) from the surrounding sacrum
fig 14
following the division of the haunch and aitch bone towards the tail area and…
fig 15
the haunch will fall away (far right)

Haunch preparation

The haunch can be further broken down into smaller cuts.

Aitch bone removal

  • Carefully remove the aitch bone without any incisions into the underlying muscles of the haunch.

Shin removal

  • Open the stifle joint between the shin and the main part of the haunch
  • Remove the shin by first cutting the Achilles tendon and then following the seam leading to the opened stifle joint. After removal the shin is deboned.

Haunch muscle separation

  • Divide the haunch firstly by the seam indicated on top of the Thick Flank muscle.
  • Use a boning knife to detach the muscles attached to the femur. When the bone is fully exposed the whole of the bone can be viewed from end to end.
  • Remove the femur bone carefully by detaching the muscle with the boning knife and then using the fingers to clean the meat from the bone, remove the bone clean from the haunch. Remove the patella or knee cap to produce a boneless haunch.
  • Remove the thick flank muscle by following the silver wall gristle shown.
  • After removing the rump, split the Topside and Silverside by the seam shown
fig 1
haunch preparation. The aitch bone should be carefully removed without any incisions into the underlying muscles of the haunch
fig 2
Opening the stifle joint between the shin and the main part of the haunch
fig 3
The shin is removed using the Tender Heel method by first cutting the Achilles tendon and then following the seam leading to the opened stifle joint. After removal the shin is deboned
fig 4
The haunch is divided firstly by the seam indicated by the blue area on top of the Thick Flank muscle
fig 5
This picture demonstrates the correct seam to be used
fig 6
Use a boning knife to detach the muscles attached to the femur. When the bone is fully exposed the whole of the bone can be viewed from end to end
fig 7
The femur bone can be removed by carefully detaching the muscle with the boning knife and then using a ‘finger boning’ technique the bone is removed clean from the haunch. The patella or knee cap is the removed to produce a boneless haunch
fig 8
The femur bone can be removed by carefully detaching the muscle with the boning knife and then using a ‘finger boning’ technique the bone is removed clean from the haunch. The patella or knee cap is the removed to produce a boneless haunch
fig 9
After removing the rump the Topside and Silverside can be split by the seam shown
fig 10
Haunch muscle group: 1: Thick Flank | 2: Tender Heel | 3: Silverside | 4: Salmon Cut | 5: Hind Shin | 6: Topside | 7: Rump/Chump
fig 11
Thick Flank preparation. Remove the internal muscles next to the femur bone be the seam as shown in the picture
fig 12
The joint can then be prepared for roasting using either strings or roasting bands. The Thick Flank can also be used as steaks
fig 13
Silverside preparation. The Tender Heel is removed by the seam (shown in lower half of picture). The silver wall gristle should also be removed. Any internal fat can also be removed at this point
fig 14
Salmon Cut removal. The small circular salmon cut is removed from the silverside by the seam shown in the picture
fig 15
Salmon Cut Medallions. Similar to tenderloins but slightly less tender so will require longer cooking
fig 16
Silverside roasting joints. This joint can then be prepared for roasting using either strings or roasting bands
fig 17
Topside roast. This joint can then be prepared for roasting using either strings or roasting bands.
fig 18
Stir Fry strips. Using the topside muscle cut strips no thicker than 5mm and approx. 50mm in length
fig 19
Tender Heel muscle. Cut into dice for casseroles
fig 20
Diced venison haunch
When the whole piece is removed the striploin can be shortened to the desired length. The backstrap gristle is removed at least 25mm over the eye muscle
The striploin may then be divided to separate the rib eye section from the main striploin muscle
The striploin may then be cut into loin steaks of even thickness to ensure even cooking
Rib eye steaks
Removal of all the sinews, flank tail and skin over the eye muscle produces a loin fillet.
This may then be cut into steaks or used in a whole piece
The flanks are boned and trimmed for use in Mince and further processed products… Minced venison – trims from the shoulder block, flanks and shoulder…
Diced venison – using muscles from shoulder block and haunch
Neck fillets taken from the forequarter section, these are trimmed and used for casserole.