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How to Cut up a Deer for You and Your Dog: An Illustrated Guide

Joy and her husband are avid hunters, home-butchering enthusiasts, sausage lovers, and cooks. Their German Shepherd dog is raw fed.

Ready to Begin Cutting a Deer Carcass

K-10 the German Shepherd is eager, as always!

K-10 the German Shepherd is eager, as always!

Information and Pictures About Butchering a Deer

This is the third article of four which demonstrates how to butcher a deer for dog food.

The techniques shown here are not necessarily professional. Rather, they are designed for the average hunter or dog owner who wishes to do his (or her) own work, with minimal investment. Our methods were developed over time and out of necessity. We have had the privilege of working in a professional meat cutting set up, butchering beef, lambs, hogs, etc. Experience of this type certainly helps, but is by no means necessary. On a day-to-day basis, we'd rather do a small carcass with less equipment--and mess!--using our own quick methods.

We would love to hear your own experiences regarding home butchering methods, tips and tricks, also raw dog feeding using the whole carcass method. Please comment below, so everyone can benefit.

Content Warning

If the sight of blood bothers you, you should not continue to read this article.

First Things First! Previous Steps.

Basic Divisions of Carcass Between You and Dog

Parts for dog:

  • Most of ribs, if desired
  • Neck and vertebrae
  • Bones and hoofs
  • Guts
  • Especially tough, dirty, or bloody (clotted) bits of meat


Parts for you:

  • Best steaks (especially haunch)
  • Maybe shoulder roasts
  • Tidbits for hamburger (optional)

Supplies and Tools

  • Favorite, medium length knife - very sharp
  • Meat saw
  • Reciprocating saw (optional)
  • Cutting board or other surface suitable for cutting on
  • Tarp or piece of clean sheet metal, if working outside, for laying carcass on
  • Rags and dish soap for cleanup; disinfectant (optional)

My Son Billy Helps; Small Carcasses

Billy is six years old in these pictures, and can cut up a deer pretty nearly by himself. This goes to show how easy cutting up such a carcass can be.

These techniques can be used with any small to medium size carcass, such as a calf or sheep.

Large carcasses, such as elk or cattle, may be a bit trickier, but can be done similarly, so long as you can get them quartered, or chunked down enough to work on them. Of course, you will want to cut the quarters into proportionately smaller pieces, unless you have a very large family, or a very big dog. An Angus bull can yield steaks the size of a dinner plate.

Step 1--Rib Sections (for Dog or People)

Cut out the boneless section behind the ribs and back part of belly, to get it out of the way. These slices are often dry and tough...but your dog will love them! Cut ribs from rear quarters, straight behind rib cage and through spine.

Cut out the boneless section behind the ribs and back part of belly, to get it out of the way. These slices are often dry and tough...but your dog will love them! Cut ribs from rear quarters, straight behind rib cage and through spine.

Make angle cuts, as shown, near the spine, to get at steak sections. Start at the front or back of the rib cage, whichever is easier.

Make angle cuts, as shown, near the spine, to get at steak sections. Start at the front or back of the rib cage, whichever is easier.

What remains of the ribs has been sliced into meal-size portions for the dog.

What remains of the ribs has been sliced into meal-size portions for the dog.

Ribs for You (Optional)

This rib section, with my son Billy cutting bits out from between the bones, is for hamburger - the blue tub is full of similar bits for ground deer meat.

This rib section, with my son Billy cutting bits out from between the bones, is for hamburger - the blue tub is full of similar bits for ground deer meat.

Ribs Require Supervision While Feeding to Your Dog!

Ribs have a different construction than most other bones - they have a likelihood of shattering into shards when being crushed by your dogs jaws. After shattering, they can easily stick in the throat, and stab or choke your dog.

So feed ribs only under strict supervision, and take them away if your dog gets too careless and aggressive, and starts trying to swallow large chunks.

Ribs should only be fed to your dog while they are still raw. Cooked ribs have a higher tendency to shatter, and should not be fed at all.

Step 2--Spine and Neck (for Dog and People)

Steaks along the spine/ribcage are good for people. Cut between each rib, to avoid having to cut through bone. Or debone first, especially if there is a risk of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Steaks along the spine/ribcage are good for people. Cut between each rib, to avoid having to cut through bone. Or debone first, especially if there is a risk of Chronic Wasting Disease.

Neck is for dog. Note that the neck is turned at a peculiar angle in this photo! Cranial end is facing spine section.

Neck is for dog. Note that the neck is turned at a peculiar angle in this photo! Cranial end is facing spine section.

Step 3--Loin and Rib Steaks (for People)

Front rib steaks were deboned in this picture. We think that deer steaks taste better deboned. You can do as you wish about this.

Front rib steaks were deboned in this picture. We think that deer steaks taste better deboned. You can do as you wish about this.

how-to-cut-up-a-deer-for-you-and-your-dog

Carcass Quality

The deer in the first two photos below is from a different butchering session, which was designed strictly for the dog, and is not as clean as the carcass featured elsewhere in this article. However, all other things being equal, you should get some very tasty round steaks, round roasts, and shank roasts from clean hindquarters. We love deer steaks for breakfast, with eggs and potatoes!

Professional Names and Professional Cuts?

Meat can have many fancy names, depending on how it is served and on such things as marketing techniques. But in the end, your cooking methods are far more likely to make or break a dinner, than whether you know how to label all the meat from your deer.

It is beyond the scope of this article to teach proper meat cutting nomenclature, and signs you can see when passing from one cut of meat to the next. But remember - if you can slice a picnic ham, you can cut up a deer leg. And it will taste as great as any other venison dinner ever did.

Step 4--Hindquarter Steaks (for People)

Cut down through the middle of the center bone, until it opens up.

Cut down through the middle of the center bone, until it opens up.

To cut off rear legs, start at flank, and twist joint as you cut. Knife should follow a line along ball of hip joint, and give a clean cut. This is easiest with the carcass belly down.

To cut off rear legs, start at flank, and twist joint as you cut. Knife should follow a line along ball of hip joint, and give a clean cut. This is easiest with the carcass belly down.

Sirloin, round steak, etc. come from these pieces. These are ready to slice into steaks or roasts, as you wish.

Sirloin, round steak, etc. come from these pieces. These are ready to slice into steaks or roasts, as you wish.

Fancy steak names are for sales purposes. You don't need to know all the cuts in order to slice the meat into enjoyable portions.

Fancy steak names are for sales purposes. You don't need to know all the cuts in order to slice the meat into enjoyable portions.

Slice and saw until you are satisfied. You may debone and trim as you go, if you are short on freezer room.

Slice and saw until you are satisfied. You may debone and trim as you go, if you are short on freezer room.

Hindquarter Breakdown Explained

Chart, Cuts Of Meat

how-to-cut-up-a-deer-for-you-and-your-dog

How a Professional Skins a Deer--Amazing Demonstration of Skill!

A Quick Deboning Method, While Hanging

Packaging People Quality Cuts of Meat

If you have butcher's paper and commercial size plastic wrap, use them! Your meat will stay well-flavored for a long time in frozen conditions when carefully packaged.

But it is possible to have good meat for months to come, using simply plastic zipper bags and grocery store plastic wrap. Use a brand with proven "cling" to save frustration, and use plenty of it. Your meat packages may not look professional - but they'll store fine. You may double wrap them in bags, if desired.

Use freezer tape to mark date, basic cut, quantity, and animal (if you do more than one a year), on each package.

Packaging Cuts for Your Dog

You don't have to be quite as careful when packaging meat for your dog, as you do when your human family is involved. A dog is usually not as discriminating, but also has a hardier - and shorter - digestive tract.

A simple way to handle meat for him is to drop each cut, or meals' worth, into a plastic grocery bag, which can then be wrapped over itself, labeled if necessary, and frozen. Of course, these looser packages sometimes leak before they freeze, so you may wish to place a paper bag or even a feed sack in your freezer to catch any drips.

Several hours before feeding time, thaw each package in a bowl.

In hot weather, a dog may enjoy a partially frozen steak, just as you might enjoy a cold drink or ice cream.

Feeding Indoors

Shanks are a good indoor treat for your dog, as they are less messy than many parts. You may have to sweep up bone chips, but that's it.

Shanks are a good indoor treat for your dog, as they are less messy than many parts. You may have to sweep up bone chips, but that's it.

Clarifications Coming!

This demonstration, along with others dealing with raw dog feeding, was photographed in 2008 and 2009. At the time, I had no ability to finish these demos as I would like, as I moved to a location with no internet. However, as I have had several requests recently to finish this series, and continue to share my family's experiences, I have decided to do my imperfect best. So--

I have pictures somewhere in my files which will clarify and expand on some of these techniques, using lamb carcasses. When I locate these photos and am able to work with them, I will add them in. Until that time, I hope you--and your dog--will receive some benefit from what is here.

As my family now raise sheep and don't go hunting as often, this seems to be the best way to finish these home butcher guides for you and your dog.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Joilene Rasmussen