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

The nose knows.....
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.
My wife's nose is off. She smells things that aren't there and doesn't smell some things that are. I don't think I have the best nose. My son has a pretty decent nose I think.

I've got him split up into 4 different coolers right now. He really had a big body. 1 hindquarter fits in the 48 quart cooler. I could fit some other neck meat or trimmings in there but no way another quarter. My 110 quart igloo cooler just fit the 2 front shoulders.

I think I'm going to move stuff around tonight and get the stuff that smells the worst away from the stuff that doesn't smell. Both hind quarters have a smell, not terrible but some smell. Neither front shoulder smells but the one had that meat that I already trimmed off. The neck had a little smell but the backstraps seemed okay. The worst smell of anything was the tenderloins and I hate that because he had HUGE tenderloins.
 
My experience is sour meat smells like ammonia before it really goes bad.

The moose I shot last year sat over night, but he died lying on his stomach. Some of the meat on the front of the neck was no good as well as the brisket and front points of the shoulders. The backstraps and hinds were ok. The rest of it was somewhere in between. It eats ok, but was about 80% as good as it should have been. If it was a couple more hours, I doubt I would have saved any of it. It was quite cold that night, 20ish degrees, but the hide and hair holds a lot of heat.

I shot a deer one time in late September in archery season that ended up dying in a creek. I found him almost 24 hours later. The meat was surprisingly still ok, as I presume it was due to being submerged.

I've seen guys lose half an elk, even gutted, a few times. They didn't open them up or get them off the ground. Getting the hide off helps, but the heat will escape just fine as long as the meat/inside is open, and its off the ground.

Hopefully you don't loose much, but I'd bet the sides on the ground are questionable.

That looks like a really nice bull! Congrats, glad you guys found him.
 
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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.
This.
Also, a lot of smelly meat can be saved by rinsing the blood out of it with COLD water and patting it dry. Often it is the pooled blood that smells.
 
We had a cow elk we shot at last light but didn’t find until the next morning. Temps warmer than yours. The only spoilage I found was around the hip ball joints. Rest of her was fine.
 
Bacterial invasion of intact muscle groups takes a long time on a quickly dead animal. If on the other hand you have a wounded/dying animal with blood pumping, picking up bacteria from the wound area and redistributing said bugs throughout the body, you have increasing microscopic contamination issues.

(Edit to add: bacterial contamination doesn't need to be zero for the meat to be perfectly fine, given proper cooking methods. But the higher the starting load of "yuck" and the longer the exposure, the less the safety margin. And perhaps the less palatable but still safe-ish to eat.)

(Continuing to edit: We humans eat/drink lots of bacteria altered foods: cheeses, yougurt, kimchee/sauerkraut, beer, wine, kombucha, pickled whatnots, summer sausage, etc etc. Its the kind of bacteria and the way that it directly affects/infects us, or the toxins that they produce that is the problem/s)



Direct exposure of the tenderloins to paunch contents has always been a concern of mine. Can I reasonably remove the contamination and its invasion into the muscle to make it "safe" to eat? And for those who eat their tendies rare, what is your tolerance for risk?
 
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Definitely trust your nose. As far as those tenderloins, I probably wouldn't eat them.

Beautiful bull, glad you found it. Even if you only save half of it, it's better than not finding it!
Thanks. We were very discouraged and getting pretty close to calling it. It hadn't even gone 200 yards from the shot but that oak brush on steep slopes makes finding an animal that didn't bleed super difficult. I'm going to post one of my normal long winded threads on the whole thing but the bullet did not exit so we weren't able to find even a single drop of blood before dark the first night. Then freezing mist/fog and snow made it completely impossible the next day. We had committed to continuing to look Monday morning if needed but were sure wondering if we were ever going to find him.
 
I would take everything but the tenderloins.

When you get home just give away the parts that smell bad to your neighbor (You know, the one that always thought you hated him because you secretly do).

"Hey Ron, you want some elk meat?!"
"Sure Bill! I didn't think you even liked me?!"
"Oh Ron, you know better!"
 
When your cutting up your elk with a buddy, and you ask them if they farted and they say no! Yeah, you don't want that meat!
 
Bacterial invasion of intact muscle groups takes a long time on a quickly dead animal. If on the other hand you have a wounded/dying animal with blood pumping, picking up bacteria from the wound area and redistributing said bugs throughout the body, you have increasing microscopic contamination issues.

Direct exposure of the tenderloins to paunch contents has always been a concern of mine. Can I reasonably remove the contamination and its invasion into the muscle to make it "safe" to eat? And for those who eat their tendies rare, what is your tolerance for risk?

I agree with what everyone is posting, I would not eat the tenderloins but not because of safety concerns rather tastey concerns. Similar to issues with ecoli in the beef industry bacteria on the outside of whole meat will be killed when cooked, even if rare.

Definitely would not grind the tenderloins as I think that might be the only (although still probably small) chance of getting illness.

I shot by bull last year in much warmer temps, sat overnight and recovered in the morning. I was nearly certain the meat on the ground would be green. Much to my surprise it was actually COOLER than the meat on the top side. It was a shaded hillside and temps were prly down in the high 30’s or low 40’s at night but that ground just sucked the heat out I guess? I did not save the tenderloins if I recall.

This year on an antelope hunt I witnessed a shot too far back. From that shot until kill shot was prly only 20-30 minutes. I did the gutless method and retrieved the tenderloins. They smelled like bile when I got home. Rinsed them, soaked them in salt water but they still smelled. They tasted “different” to me as well so won’t be doing that again if I can help it. In your situation the tenderloins likely marinated in bile so I would think they would be just as bad or worse. 🤷🏼‍♂️
 
Like others have said, trust your nose. I helped butcher pack/out a friends bull several years ago that we lost some meat on, even though it was field dressed the day before. Neck and hind quarters at the ball joints were what seemed the worst. Had a green tint and sour smell just like @Gerald Martin mentioned.

I absolutely hate losing any meat, but based on what you've written, I'm tossing the tenderloins and underside shoulder and looking very suspect that that underside hind. Most of it may actually be fine to consume, but you'll be second guessing it every time you put it on the table with even a very slight off smell... Maybe feed it to your dogs if that's the case.
 
One other thing, I use the 45-24 rule. Get the meat to 45F or cooler within 24 hours. Not sure if it meets FDA standards but it’s helped keep my mind at ease when I get an elk down I no longer think the meat is quickly spoiling. I don’t think you are far off from this based on what I read. If it was 25 or 26 etc. hours I wouldn’t be concerned either. Sounds like you “got it on ice” and cooling down right around 24-26 hours.
 
It’s safe to say those tenderloins are collateral damage. They will taste exactly as they smell. Cut your losses and move on.


I wouldn’t risk having your family be completely turned off from eating any of it by trying to keep something marginal.

Elk meat almost always smells “sweet” to me. I take the sweet smell as normal.

Ammonia or gut heaving rot smell goes into the trash as soon as possible to limit contamination. You will only put your nose to a piece of soured meat one time to know that smell.

Get the rest of it butchered and frozen ASAP. No need for further hanging since the body heat will have spread up the aging process compared to a quickly cooled and aged in cool temperatures.

Get the
 
In my experience doing necropsies on elk shot anywhere from 8-12 hours prior to postmortem, there is absolutely spoilage in that time even at -25 degrees. The side in contact with the ground holds heat. Large muscle groups hold heat. Rumens full of bacteria that are fermenting vegetation generate heat. The black blood you observed is black because the cells are decomposing. Brown muscle is the same, although perhaps not so far as to be unsafe to eat. After all, that’s what “aging” is, essentially.

I would trim liberally. Cook up some small pieces to test if you aren’t sure. If it smells off when cooking, or tastes funky, you’ll have your answer.

Beautiful bull. Glad you guys found him. Hopefully you can salvage some.
 
I think I'll cook up the tenderloins this evening and invite some "friends" over!

I don't think there was any bile on them, but they were definitely still warm when I took them out and they smelled the worst out of everything. The stomach had for sure been cooking and when I skinned him the stomach was bloated up pretty good had a greenish hue. I was very careful not to puncture anything!
 
I have not lost an elk, and shot 2 when it was 90 degrees. Trick is to bone it out. even if you have a cooler full of ice at the truck a whole hind quarter can spoil if it is not on ice before a few hours because even ice won't get to the center of that meat fast enough. Break it down into small chunks and spread it around to cool a bit before putting it in game bags. at a minimum bone the hind out and open it up to cool. Work the ice in between the meat chunks if it takes a while to get it to the ice as the clock is ticking. The elk I shot this year died 10 feet from a fence and I used that fence as a meat cloths line! looked funny with all that meat hanging on it but it got nice and cool before getting bagged up
 
Loins are probably bad. The rest should be good as long as it doesnt smell. The stink may just be from the bloating/gas which starts almost immediately after dying. I usually notice bloating while we are still taking pics.
 
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.
This is accurate IMO.

And the suggestion to hang it for awhile is, to me, nuts. Freeze as fast as possible in this situation.
 
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