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How do you tell meat is going bad?

Bob-WY

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Feb 24, 2020
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Long story short, my wife shot her first elk, a cow, Monday evening, despite a good shot, she refused to die and went 600 yards, my head was screaming "liver hit" so we pulled out at dark and came back the next morning. Found her around 9, packed out an in cooler by 1.

Temps in town about 45-50, mountains probably low 30s.

I just went out to change the frozen ice jugs in the 120 quart cooler. 5 jugs. When I opened the cooler there was a slight smell that was "off". Meat isn't green or anything, but when we butcher this afternoon, how do I tell if the meat is good or bad? Some doesn't seem to have that deep red color I am used to, more pink.

Outside temps are currently around 70 as they were yesterday and tomorrow.

Don't want to process meat that makes us sick later, or give some to friends and get them sick.
 

NoWiser

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I think any elk left overnight in 45-50 degree temps will suffer spoilage, at least on the side that was laying on the ground. They are just too big of animals to leave overnight without expecting some meat loss. Even in subzero temps I wouldn't want to leave one overnight unless I absolutely had no other choice. I also would let that meat cool off in the open air next time, before putting it into a cooler. Even in warm temps, it's amazing how the meat can cool off if it's hanging in the shade, in a breeze.

I think your question will answer itself when you butcher it, but I'd be expecting a fair bit of meat loss.
 

Werty

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You might have a little bone sour! I had one, had just a little off smell when cooking, but tasted good
 

JLS

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I think any elk left overnight in 45-50 degree temps will suffer spoilage, at least on the side that was laying on the ground. They are just too big of animals to leave overnight without expecting some meat loss. Even in subzero temps I wouldn't want to leave one overnight unless I absolutely had no other choice. I also would let that meat cool off in the open air next time, before putting it into a cooler. Even in warm temps, it's amazing how the meat can cool off if it's hanging in the shade, in a breeze.

I think your question will answer itself when you butcher it, but I'd be expecting a fair bit of meat loss.
Good advice here. A cooler doesn't cool, it insulates. If you put warm meat in a cooler, even with ice, you may not get the temps down to where you want and at the rate you want. Hang it in an open air environment so the internal temps can drop, and then pack with ice.

The pink is more likely from moisture. Look for gas bubbles in the fascia and any sour smell. Probably around the heavier joints and on the downhill side.
 

Gr8bawana

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I left a cow elk overnight about 14 hours before. It was gutted and we propped the cavity open and left it skin-side down on it's back. It was laying on snow about 8" deep and the nighttime temps were just below 0°.
The meat felt ice cold but the blood that had pooled at the bottom was not frozen. :unsure: We did not have any spoilage. (y)
 

diamond hitch

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Meat will sour in the arteries in the legs first. The mass in the neck and front shoulders will sour on the bone. Use your nose. Often you can trim to minimize your losses. Just follow your nose. Rinsing with white vinegar can help much in the body cavity but once it sours it's gone. Good luck!
 

ElkFever2

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Meat will sour in the arteries in the legs first. The mass in the neck and front shoulders will sour on the bone. Use your nose. Often you can trim to minimize your losses. Just follow your nose. Rinsing with white vinegar can help much in the body cavity but once it sours it's gone. Good luck!
Good advice here. The meat might all look the same, but different pieces of the same cut might smell dramatically different. Trim the sour-smelling part off and smell again until the piece you’re saving is all fresh. Stick your nose in real close and inhale big and slow. An animal I shot once I didn’t get the hide off quick enough, and the ball joints had soured, along with part of tenderloins. I ended up trimming off about 10 total lbs. and the rest was fine.
 

dirtclod Az.

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I rented an old cabin from an old-timer for a year, he had a meat shed full of deer
and other critters.
When you walked in the smell hit you like a ton of bricks, not a rotten smell but
not a fresh smell either.
All the hanging meat had a light coating of white film on it. He had me smell a few,
and they did not smell rotten.
His advice was that if it had a stinky smell it was fine, if it made you gag, throw it out!
As advised by the others, trust your nose.
I leave all meat on the counter at room temp. before cooking, (except poultry) it seems to turn out a lot more tender that way. 💥
 

44hunter45

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It is often the pooled blood you smell, not the meat. In a downed animal or in a cooler, the blood will follow gravity.
De-bone it, hang the smelly meat separately or place it on racks to further cool and drain.
I take oven roasting racks and put the meat in our spare fridge, covered with an old game bag, to drain.
You need a catch pan or old towels under it to catch the blood. This keeps the vermin out of it too.
Check it daily and drain off the collected blood or change out the towels. Old game bags work well for this, since they are already usually stained.

Focus on processing the best meat first. When you get to the smelly stuff, nose test it. A good rinse before you process those last cuts will usually leaving it smelling fine.

I have butchered meat which had mold on it without ill effects. (actually really tender!) You just cut it off like silver skin.
Clean your knife between passes to avoid putting the spores back onto the meat.
 

devon deer

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Trust your senses, vision and smell, or just give the first bit to someone you don't like and wait for the repercussions.

Ideal temperature is below 44f

Cheers

Richard
 

nordicStalk

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Nov 6, 2020
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Sweden
In my experience, it's always the smell that you notice first. A little smell might not be a problem, though. And remember that even though some part or some layer started spoiling, it doesn't mean it all spoiled.

Although I'd say it's a different topic: it's especially evident when doing some types of conserving, like drying meat - meat can start getting undesirable bacteria growth and you can still wash it off with the right acid, or cut it off, and then encourage it towards the right bacterial flora. Like I said, off topic a bit - my point being spoilage can begin but it doesn't have to mean the entire animal is gone.

BR
Tomas
 

shb

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Jul 24, 2018
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Slice off a nice chunk and eat it.......


Does it taste good?


If it tastes good raw, your good to go.
 

Bullshot

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Dec 21, 2018
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Two days into the rising sun
Meet and blood in a cooler can put off a little funk even under the best of circumstances, its just sealed and damp in there. If you had any hide or proof of sex attached or blood soaked game bags it just makes it worse. Water and moisture turn the surface of the meat pale
as the blood is washed out- it can just look clammy and unappealing, but other than that should be fine if it was kept cold.

As stated by others, once you start butchering, you will readily be able to note anything that has truly gone “bad”. That is not to say that less than ideal circumstances can’t lead to some meat loss and some quality loss. Just trim
carefully - anything bloodshot, off color (anything not more or less fresh smelling, and a good dark pink or red) and grind most of it into hamburger so you never have to worry about a “gamey” steak.
 

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