Meat Processing Blog & Video
by Larry Bartlett, Pristine Ventures

Expedition Hunt Meat Processing: Preventing Spoilage in the Back Country

Most know the basics of meat preservation after a harvest. The name of the game is keeping it clean, cold, and dry to prevent spoilage. However, the backcountry hunter, who is days away from utilizing refrigeration, requires a deeper understanding of meat processing in the field. Larry Bartlett, the owner of Pristine Ventures and expert expedition hunter, says that there are three variables that should be watched and managed on the trek back to civilization. This trio consists of the elements, temperature, and time. Understanding how to manage these will allow you to bring home the maximum quantity of quality meat.

Managing the Elements

When considering the elements that influence the successful storage of meat, you must use your senses. By continually checking the meat’s temperature, smell, and feel, you can prevent spoilage or catch it before it begins.

Three steps to check the meat using your senses

  • Smell the meat for rancid or “off” odors.
  • Feel the meat and check for foreign objects or tissue that can easily store moisture.
  • Check the ambient and deep-tissue temperatures.

During these checks, you should cut away tissue that can speed up spoilage. By using different materials such as meat bags, tarps, and items found in nature, hunters can create the best case for meat processing in the field. Bartlett also shares that, by creating a mix of citric acid powder and clean water in a spray bottle, you can mist the meat then let it dry to help slow the growth of bacteria. Managing the elements is constant work that rewards hunters with top-quality meat.

Tracking the Temperature when Meat Processing

Bartlett explains that commercial standards for the temperature of harvested game meat is not realistic in expedition-style hunts when someone can be many days away from refrigeration. So, it is vital to understand temperature control in the field. The ideal deep tissue temperature range for the backcountry hunter is between 32°F and 50°F. By using a simple kitchen meat thermometer, you can quickly check both ambient and deep-tissue temperatures. Bartlett points out that it is essential to keep the harvest above 34°F in the first 72 hours so you can prevent cold shortening (permanent muscle contraction). Also, by keeping the meat below 50°F, you slow microbial growth, fat rancidity, and meat degradation.

Observing the Time

Time plays a crucial role in providing not only quantity but also quality. The time it takes for the animal to expire and the blood drained from the muscle can be the difference between dark, dry meat and tender light meat. Also, the amount of time you allow the lactic acid to leave the muscles before freezing can have an impact. Bartlett shares that because of drainage and evaporation after five days, the meat will lose 10 to 14% of its harvest weight. These are essential timeframes, but the big picture is that you want to try and get the harvested meat to refrigeration within nine days.


By understanding the three variables and their relation to each other, the expedition hunter will have the knowledge needed to bring home the highest quality meat yield. By continually gauging the elements, temperature, and time, you can have the confidence to know that the meat you bring home will be the best.

For more hunting tips, visit our blog.

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