Answers from the FieldHunting

Home Butchery: How to Deal with Silverskin, Fascia, Myoglobin, and more!

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Processing game mammals is a multi-sensory learning experience. It can be quite messy, but there’s no better way to learn about the anatomy of the animals we hunt. Whether you process your own deer or butcher deer quarters at home, you’ll notice an interesting array of substances in the carcass that aren’t meat. Here’s a breakdown of some of the stuff you’ll encounter, what it is, and what to do with it.

Fascinating Fascia

During skinning and beyond, you’ll find foamy, bubbly, tacky, slick, and even gelatinous stuff. This is fascia. Made of water, proteins (such as collagen and elastin) and other substances, it’s a dynamic network that lubricates tissues and keeps them in place. It’s usually clear, but blood and other fluids can get down in it and change the color. I scrape it off with my knife, or lightly rinse it away and pat the meat dry. You might also notice deep red jelly around the blood-shot (the dark areas damaged by your projectile or other trauma). It can contain bullet fragments, bone pieces, hair, and even grass and dirt. Cut all this away — it’ll taste bad and may be contaminated. 

When Blood Isn’t Blood

The red liquid that accumulates on your cutting board or plate of cooked meat isn’t blood. It’s mostly a protein called myoglobin. Myoglobin gives fresh meat its reddish-purple color, which turns bright red when exposed to air. Lack of oxygen (like in a sealed bag) turns the meat a brownish color. This does not affect the quality. Meat proteins also darken during cooking. So when you enjoy a rare steak, it’s not bloody — it’s just not cooked as hot.

Actual blood seems to spoil more quickly than anything else on the carcass, taking on an off smell and sticky texture. Because of this, I gently rinse and dry any meat with blood on it as soon as possible and try to avoid letting it sit in blood for long periods of time.. I remove the tenderloins from inside the deer’s body cavity immediately after gutting to protect them. If you must store the meat in a plastic bag or cooler, drain it frequently or change out any ice as soon as you can. Coagulated blood might be very dark red or even black and should also be removed. 


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Silverskin: Pros and Cons

Silverskin is a shiny, almost metallic, sometimes opaque, whitish membrane. Like fascia, it’s a type of connective tissue, but rather than a web of jelly, it’s a very thin but tough layer. Mostly made of collagen, silver skin is very noticeable on the loins (backstraps), shanks, and between the muscles of the neck and legs. It’s advised to remove silverskin from anything you plan to cook hot and fast: your steaks, heart, and liver included. It will curl and toughen when cooked and create an undesirable eating experience. You don’t want it in your sliced jerky, either, because it will make it unpleasantly chewy.


Silverskin can be hard to remove, but cold, dry meat should make your job easier. I slice into it and carefully peel it off using a butter knife slid underneath. While some sources say you should remove the silverskin before storage, I usually leave it on until I’m actually preparing the meat for eating. If it’ll be frozen, I just leave it on and never notice any issues.

There are some culinary instances when you’ll want to leave the silverskin on the meat. Anything that will be slow-cooked (or pressure cooked, like in an instant pot) will actually benefit from leaving the silverskin on, particularly shanks and leg roasts. A long, low-temperature cook turns all that collagen into gelatin, working wonders for the flavor and texture of stocks, soups, stews, and sauces.

In my house we love adding deer hocks to our red sauce, braising necks and shanks for tacos, and making whole smoked shoulders into pulled venison. In all these dishes, the connective tissues transform, adding moisture and richness that helps compensate for the leanness of the wild game meat. I also keep silverskin on anything that’s going to be finely ground and dehydrated into meat sticks — all my lean trim and the little meaty bits. Silverskin does have some nutritional value, and you can also add what you’ve trimmed to your bone broth or crock pot (or give it to an appreciative dog). 

There’s more to wild game than just meat, and now you know what you’re working with when you process your next kill.

Heidi Chaya

Heidi Chaya is a food journalist, farmhand, and avid home cook. Her experiences living and working in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley provide her with many opportunities to expand her culinary horizons and continue to learn and grow through fishing, foraging, and hunting.

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