Another meat safety question. Elk not recovered for 24 hours.

npaden

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Okay. I've never gone more than an hour or two from shooting an animal to recovering it. This weekend my son shot an elk at 5 pm Saturday and we weren't able to find him until 4:30 pm on Sunday. It was 20 degrees or less the entire time and either dark, misting freezing rain or snowing the entire time we were looking for him. The hit was fairly far back and I'm guessing it took him at least a couple hours to die but not sure any more or less from that.

When we found him he was stiff from rigor and starting to bloat. He smelled bad. The shot was at least partially in the stomach and when skinning him some air released that had been trapped under the hide. He was on his side so I was hoping that at least the part on top would be okay. I salvaged all of the meat even the tenderloins and we packed them out got them cooled down and into coolers.
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Some of the meat has a sweet smell to it. Some of the meat had the normal red meat color and doesn't smell. The meat that smells the worst (sweet smell not really bad) had more of a brown color to it. (The tenderloins smelled the worst). The meat was still warm when I was cutting it up. Right around the hip socket on both hind quarters had that some brown colored meat that had a smell to it.

This bull had a massive body and there is a ton of meat. The back straps looked fine and the top front shoulder seemed okay but the bottom front shoulder had some stuff that ended up kind of inflating and then deflating and didn't really stink but looked bad and I trimmed that off already.

I've got everything in coolers at home now and am trying to decide what to do. Just do a smell test of each piece and only save the stuff that doesn't have that sweet smell? Butcher it all?

I've had meat before with a very slight sweet smell that turned out fine. I've just never dealt with meat that didn't get taken care of timely so have no experience here.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks, Nathan
 
Hang it for a few days and see what happens. I know a guy that had this happen and all the meat turned black if I remember correctly after a couple days in the meat locker I’ve heard even in those nasty weather they will spoil animal is insulated very well
 
Sounds like possibly a gut shot and maybe even liver.

This happened on my bull last year as well, and we didn't get to him until 12 pm after shooting him at 7:30.

If you didn't get any guts on the meat, or any liver, you should be good.

You may want to be a more liberal with how much you trim off when you process. I'd let it hang in cold Temps, below 50 degrees for sure, for at least a week, to let the meat age and then build up a little bit of rind on the outside. Cool bull, congrats to your son
 
Probably fine except for anything with stomach acids on it. Sweet smell isn't a big deal. I'd hang it for awhile and do a little trimming. I've hung elk a long time (10-14 days) and then just trimmed the dark crust before cutting and wrapping and had amazing eating.
 
cgasner1 said:


Hang it for a few days and see what happens. I know a guy that had this happen and all the meat turned black if I remember correctly after a couple days in the meat locker I’ve heard even in those nasty weather they will spoil animal is insulated very well

I can't really hang it as the temps here are going to be too warm for that but the meat turning black is what happened to that one place on the bottom shoulder. The smell test seems like that way to go but once you smell the taint it kind of sticks with you and hard to unsmell it when checking out the next piece.
 
One other thing that I thought of that might mean something or might not.

When I cut the femoral artery while removing one of the hind quarters the blood ran out and was not congealed. I nicked the diaphragm at the bottom and nasty smelling very dark blood squirted out for quite a while. Minutes.

The area on the underside front shoulder that ended up kind of inflating and deflating and turning almost black had congealed blood in it that was clumped up.
 
Another thought on this is spending on the shot that bull may have laid there for quite awhile still alive. While it may have taken you 24 hours to find him he may have been alive for 8-10 of them it’s hard to say. I left a bull once I hit right at dark I thought I saw him tip over but with knowing the arrow was bad we just backed out and left him. That morning at daylight I found him 50 yards from where I last saw him and bumped a coyote off him that had tore into the guts the meat was fine other than the gut bile that got on some. The meat just always tasted funny to me wife never noticed and I never mentioned it to
her
 
Every time that I see a TV show where they shoot an animal and say "they'll recover it in the morning" I think to myself "there''s a wasted animal!"

This discussion comes up occasionally at our weekly Skeet shooting night at our gun club. Most of the guys there are long time elk and everything else hunters, including one guy who has guided elk and buffalo hunters on Turner's Flying D ranch for many years, and they all agree with me.

The larger the animal, the more heat is trapped inside it and the quicker it will begin to spoil, especially if the cavity isn't opened up, the "guts" removed, and the quarters hung to cool.

My worst personal experience was back when I lived in Steamboat Springs, CO on Saturday August 14, 1973, the opening day of archery season:

I shot a 5x5 bull elk outside of town just before the noon whistle in town went off. I waited a half hour before I started to look for him and found him a half hour later. I immediately opened him and field dressed him, but I did not quarter him. It was 6 pm that evening before the landowner and I got my truck to him, and I got him back home in one piece, where I was able to hang him overnight in a tree.

The next day I quartered him and hung the quarters in a friend's celler. On Monday, the friend called me to get "that stinky thing" out of his celller. The whole half of the bull that had laid on the ground for 6 hours had spoiled and had to be thrown away.

I must of learned my lesson, because 30 some elk and a whole lot of other critters later and I haven't had any meat spoil.
 
In Commercial beef kill plants the carcass goes into a chilling "Hot Box" before going into the cooler.

Rapid cooling to 40°F or less within a 24-hour period controls the pH levels of the meat, which helps maintain an appealing color and texture.

The-colour-of-meat-at-various-pH-levels-MIRINZ-Food-Technology-and-Research-1999-With.png


Another thought on this is spending on the shot that bull may have laid there for quite awhile still alive. While it may have taken you 24 hours to find him he may have been alive for 8-10 of them it’s hard to say.
I concur with this.

Your brighter red meat should be fine.
 
One other little tidbit that probably doesn't really make any difference is that the taxidermist said he thought the cape was in really good shape when I dropped it off on the way home. I think it takes a lot more to spoil a cape than meat though.
 
In Commercial beef kill plants the carcass goes into a chilling "Hot Box" before going into the cooler.

Rapid cooling to 40°F or less within a 24-hour period controls the pH levels of the meat, which helps maintain an appealing color and texture.

The-colour-of-meat-at-various-pH-levels-MIRINZ-Food-Technology-and-Research-1999-With.png



I concur with this.

Your brighter red meat should be fine.
It's weird you picture shows up as a red X until I went to quote your post and then I was able to see it.

So is the 5.5 ph meat edible but just doesn't have an appealing color and texture?

The tenderloins and the meat on the hind quarter around the hip socket looked pretty close to that color.
 
They spoil from the inside out, and it can happen in below zero temps, just overnight. If you think you can salvage some of it, that's great. There's no doubt in my mind that a lot of meat you're talking about is not fit to eat, and has zero to do with guts on it, etc. It did not cool down quickly enough. When you kill an animal the size of an elk, it's always good to split the hinds out to the bone, as they are so big that they can even spoil if quartered. I've never lost one, but I've had close calls with just whole quarters, not being split open quickly enough in september weather.

It really depends on how long it died, before you found it. I'd say if 4-5 hours or more, you're not going to be saving much.

I take that back - I did lose one in NM, found him several days later, so notched the tag and there was no meat fit to eat. Same trip another guy hit one late in the evening and they got to it at daylight. They saved the top two quarters, but the ones on bottom were bad. Even the ones they saved did not smell right.
 
Unfortunately sounds like your gonna have lots of bad meat. A good friend lost one once and the temp was in the low teens. I can't imagine eating meat that smells bad. Sorry to hear, it just happens sometimes.
 
It really depends on how long it died, before you found it. I'd say if 4-5 hours or more, you're not going to be saving much.
Based on the snow accumulation on him I'm going to say more than 4-5 hours. It started snowing at 11:00 and we found him at 4:30 and looking at the snow on him it looks like about as much on him as on the ground so I think he was dead the whole time it was snowing.
 
I think you might be able to get away with that a bit with smaller animals, maybe even deer, but not an elk sized animal. From the pic, it does look like he bloated a bit and that takes a bit of time. Wish i had better input for you. It's a great looking bull and sometimes unfortunate things happen.
 
I’ve helped with one cow that was similar conditions except found faster; basically shot at dark and recovered shortly after daylight the next morning. Temperature was around -2 when we started looking the next day. My understanding is much of the meat on the downside was bad as well as basically everything around the hips. Elk will retain a lot of heat around the joints
 
I shot a cow in similar conditions that I didn’t recover and butcher for @ 22 hours. I was able to salvage about 80% of her. When you do the final butchering your nose will tell you. A sweet smell and brown isn’t necessarily bad. Greenish color and an off putting sour smell is. There’s no mistaking soured meat when you smell it.
 

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