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Aging Moose and Elk

12.04.07

Yesterday’s post brought up an important topic: the aging of big game meats. Someone posted the following in a comment:

“Not all meat should be aged. Young game animals are tender by nature. Aging game that has been skinned often results in excessive weight loss, dehydration and surface discoloration of the lean tissue…”

I’d had this pang of guilt tucked in me somewhere that I should be aging even the calves. But yesterday’s experience confirmed for me that I never want to age calves again. Ever.

The animals we cut yesterday were hanging for 4-7 days at a good temperature. It’s super-dry here right now…30% relative humidity at best. The meat dried out considerably with only a few days of hanging. This didn’t impact the ‘inside’ cuts, but it essentially destroyed any exposed cuts, namely the ribs, and any thin exterior piece of meat. Everything needed trimming, and when it’s a small animal, this creates a lot of waste. My guess is that proper aging requires what good wine storage and sausage curing requires: proper humidity.

I can wholeheartedly conclude that in this case, any improvement in the meat would be marginal compared to the extreme loss in quality and mass of the exposed cuts. To top it all off, all the extra trimming simply means a whole lot more work that in my mind is completely unnecessary. In the future, my rule of thumb will be: butcher asap. No question.

Worth noting that the last calves we’d butchered day after the kill. The product on the cutting board was FAR superior [no exterior trimming, ribs fresh and plump]. FAR easier to work with. And I’d bet quite a few dollars that in a blind taste test, nobody could tell me which was cut the next day, and which was hung.

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