The packaged venison is given to local food banks and food pantries for distribution.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) encourage deer hunters around the state to not only submit samples from harvested deer for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing, but to also donate their harvests through the state’s Share the Harvest (STH) program.
During MDC’s recent CWD winter operations, Mississippi Lime Company (MLC) donated 2,100 pounds of venison for those in need. MLC owns hundreds of acres within the Ste. Genevieve targeting culling area. The donation was from deer that had tested negative for CWD from Jan. 15 to March 15.
“This was another way we can contribute to conservation,” said Paul Arnold of Mississippi Lime Company. “We work hard to be good stewards of the land, and we strive to do everything with integrity. We’re honored to help in the control of CWD; and that’s a lot of meat we’re able to donate from deer harvested from our company land.”
Administered by MDC and CFM, Share the Harvest coordinates the efforts of thousands of deer hunters, numerous participating meat processors, many local supporting organizations, and statewide sponsors to help feed hungry Missourians.
“We see this partnership in CWD testing efforts as another way to protect our natural resources and to support the community,” Arnold said.
MDC’s Regional Resource Management Supervisor Matt Bowyer said it’s always good to see neighbors supporting each other.
“It’s very encouraging to see the venison donated to people who need it,” he said.
According to MDC, 191 deer in the Ste. Genevieve and Perry CWD management zone were harvested during winter ops. Seventy-eight were harvested by landowners and 113 were harvested by MDC shooters. One hundred sixty-two CWD-positive cases were discovered statewide, thanks to the 1,390 participating landowners who helped MDC staff remove nearly 2,400 deer in those areas to manage CWD.
MDC staff work with landowners on a voluntary basis in the immediate areas around where recent cases of CWD have been found. Increasing harvest in areas where CWD has been found increases the chances of removing more infected deer.
The STH program works by deer hunters donating their extra venison -- from several pounds to whole deer -- to participating meat processors throughout the state who grind and package the deer meat. The packaged venison is then given to local food banks and food pantries for distribution.
Post-season targeted culling is the only tested method of slowing the growth of CWD in a local deer population. States such as Illinois have had success in stabilizing the level of CWD in areas through targeted culling.
The National Institutes of Health states that children need protein in their diets for proper growth and development, and adults need it to maintain good health. Yet many Missourians can't afford or don’t have access to good sources of protein. Through Share the Harvest, Missouri hunters can help provide those in need with high-quality protein in the form of naturally lean, locally harvested deer meat.
Processing fees are covered entirely or in part by numerous local sponsors, along with statewide sponsors that include MDC, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Food Banks Association and United Bowhunters of Missouri.
Hunters should contact individual processors to determine what funds are available. The cost of processing is the hunter’s responsibility when funds to help cover the full cost of processing are not available.
CWD sampling is voluntary and strongly encouraged. More details can be found online at www.mdc.mo.gov.