venison meat

Meat processors who wish to participate in the venison donation program must register with the MDA every year, prior to accepting any deer for donation. To request a registration form, contact the Dairy and Meat Inspection Division at 651-201-6300.

To be eligible for the program, a processor must:

  • Hold a valid food handler's license and be in good standing with that license. All processing for the venison donation program must occur at the licensed facility.
  • Complete the venison donation program and processing procedures training prior to their first year of participation and subsequent years as directed.
  • Certify that they are willing to follow venison donation program procedures in return for receiving reimbursement for deer processed through the program.
  • Provide a valid W9 to receive payments. A new W9 for every year of participation is not required as long as the initial W9 submitted has the correct mailing address for the business (not the plant address or processor's home address).

Participating processors must follow specific program procedures for accepting and documenting donations, processing venison, packaging, labeling, and distributing products to food shelves. These requirements are summarized on this page and described in full detail in the venison donation program training materials. Receiving reimbursement for deer processed depends on the processors following all program requirements. Failure to follow program requirements may result in ineligibility for participation in the program in subsequent years.

Accepting Donations

To ensure donated products are safe, all donated deer must be intact with the hide on (whole carcass*), legally harvested by a licensed hunter in Minnesota, and in good condition for use as food. Some deer cannot be accepted for donation, such as deer harvested by vehicle accident/roadkill, deer harvested with nuisance/depredation permits, or deer harvested by the MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or other authorized sharpshooters.

*Deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) may be accepted for donation; however, the processor must hold tested deer until negative CWD test results are obtained. It is very important to not mix these deer with other donated deer unless test results confirm negative for CWD.

Documentation and Reimbursement

Registered processors are provided with copies of the appropriate forms to complete as they accept carcasses and process donations. They must also save invoices for processing fees and receipts from charitable organizations for archery donations.

Processors are eligible to receive the following reimbursements:

  • A $250 participation incentive.
  • Up to $150 per donated deer towards the processor's reasonable and documented cost of processing donated deer, as determined by the commissioner within the limits of available funding.
  • $30 for each deer carcass accepted but deemed unfit for donation due to level of contamination.

Proper documentation must be submitted to the MDA by January 31st of each year to receive the reimbursements, which are paid in one sum at the end of the season.

Processing Donated Deer

All donated deer must be processed into whole muscle cuts, roasts, chops, steaks, stew meat, or ground venison with no added ingredients. Donated carcasses cannot be mixed with other non-donated carcass meat or any other non-venison ingredients.

Packaging and Labeling Donated Product

Venison packages must be handled in a specific manner to ensure they can be transported to food shelves safely and efficiently. The following requirements apply:

  • All products must be packaged with approved materials, such as butcher paper, wild game meat bags with non-metal clips, or vacuum packaging.
  • Each package of product must be 1 pound (ground product) or 1-3 pounds (whole muscle cut packages).
  • All products must be frozen prior to pickup and distribution.

All individual packages of products must be identified with the following items:

  • "Hunted venison, for food donation only"
  • Plant identification number or plant name (e.g., official plant number, custom processing permit number, license number)
  • Date of processing
  • "Not for sale"

Distributing Venison

Archery harvested venison

These products may be distributed directly to a registered food shelf. The processor should coordinate directly with the food shelf for these donations. The processor is responsible for obtaining a receipt from the food shelf for the donated venison; the receipt is submitted with the reimbursement request.

Firearms harvested venison

These products must undergo screening for lead by x-ray prior to distribution. Any packages found to contain lead are discarded. The MDA coordinates the pickup and distribution of these products. Processors found to have significant problems with lead in donated products may be ineligible for participation in the program in subsequent years.