When you were in a survival situation, a real survival situation, once and preferences go right out the window when faced with the cruel calculus of just staying alive.
You’ll have to put up with things that you couldn’t imagine going through a normal life and do things that you could never imagine doing. This includes fundamental activities like eating.
When supplies are out and your stomach is rumbling, you’ll have to eat whatever you can get your hands on that is safe to eat if you want to stave off starvation.
Sure, you might have to eat some interesting animals but have you stopped to think you might have to eat their organs, too? How about deer liver? Can you eat deer liver for survival?
Yes, you can eat deer liver in a survival situation. Considered a delicacy by hunters, a healthy deer liver is packed with protein and other vital nutrients making it an asset in a survival scenario.
Some people grew up eating liver in the household, and if you’re one of them you’ll have an advantage when the time comes to prepare a deer’s liver along with its meat.
However, like all wild game there is more you’ll need to know in order to make sure that the liver is safe and healthy. Making a mistake here could see you wind up deathly ill. We will tell you more in the rest of this article.
Nutritional Facts about Deer Liver
Why would you eat deer liver in the first place? Aside from the fact that you might be starving or will be soon if you don’t, deer liver is surprisingly healthy.
An average 100 g serving of deer liver will contain about 30 g of protein and around 175 calories along with 5 to 6 g of fat. This is certainly great for boosting your energy levels, both in the near- and long term.
Aside from that, liver is also rich in vital nutrients, both vitamins and minerals alike, including vitamin A, folic acid, copper, and selenium.
These nutrients are crucial for a number of bodily functions, including vision, the immune system, and cellular growth.
Folic acid is another important nutrient found in deer liver, and it’s important for the production of red blood cells, and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
Additionally, it is especially important for pregnant women as it helps to prevent birth defects in their newborns.
In short, while you might have a real blessing on your hands in the form of all the meat that an adult deer can provide, you should not discard the liver out of hand!
Does Deer Liver Taste Good?
Yes, if you like the taste of liver and assuming the liver is in good shape and came from a healthy specimen.
Compared to typical beef liver, deer liver, or venison liver, usually tastes even richer and often “gamey” as is common with most wild animals.
This is not to say that it tastes bad, but if you have never eaten “wild” liver before it might take some getting used to.
The good news is that deer liver, like most liver, also lends itself well to all manner of preparations, from grilling to frying and seasoning with all kinds of other ingredients that you might have on hand.
Is it Safe to Eat Raw Deer Liver?
Generally no, and this one takes some serious explaining.
First off, yes, I am quite aware of the custom that has long existed among deer hunters where the fresh, raw liver of (at turns) the first kill of the season or a hunter’s first kill ever will be carved up and eaten right out of the animal.
Ostensibly, this is safe enough since we don’t have a small legion of hunters dropping dead each season.
However, this is a bad idea for obvious reasons. First and foremost, raw deer liver, like all raw meats, can easily transmit foodborne illness in the form of bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Any of these pathogenic threats can make you terribly ill or even kill you, and you’ll be much worse off since you are already in a survival situation.
There is also the question of prions which can cause serious neurodegenerative diseases like CWD (akin to mad cow disease in cattle).
While there has been only one documented case of a human being contracting prions from eating venison, it remains a very real and nightmarish possibility and one that you should take seriously.
In any case, if you want to eat raw deer liver, or any raw deer meat, you could potentially look forward to the following, awful diseases:
This bacterial infection is also sometimes called “rabbit fever” since it is often transmitted to humans by handling infected rabbits or other small rodents.
The bacteria usually enters through a cut or wound in the skin and can cause serious illness, including death, in as little as 48 hours.
Symptoms include: high fever, inflamed skin and lymph nodes, lethargy, and sudden death. Yikes.
2. Hepatitis E
Vital hepatitis attacks the liver. It is usually transmitted by contaminated water or direct contact with infected animals or their meat.
Can cause serious illness, including death in pregnant women. Symptoms include: fever, dark urine, weakness, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), pain in the upper right abdomen, and potentially liver failure in extreme cases.
These are intestinal parasites that can be passed from deer to humans through contaminated meat, including the liver.
Symptoms include: abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and sometimes seizures if the larvae migrate to the brain depending on the species.
A common bacterial infection like salmonella can cause serious illness or death. It is usually transmitted to humans by handling or ingesting contaminated meat.
Symptoms include high fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache and occasionally vomiting. Can strike very quickly after infection, within hours.
Another common bacterial infection that can cause serious illness or death. It is usually transmitted to humans by handling or ingesting contaminated meat, including our deer liver here.
Symptoms are similar to salmonella; high fever, bloody diarrhea, severe muscle pain, and headache.
Always Inspect the Deer Prior to Eating Liver
Before you decide to dig into your deer’s liver, take the time to inspect it and the animal it came from.
An obviously sickly deer is a warning sign, as is a liver that looks obviously diseased or odd. Inspect the liver and look out for the following:
White Patches: White patches can indicate the presence of tularemia or liver flukes, small parasites that supposedly only affect deer. If you see these white spots, discard.
Odd Color: A healthy deer liver is a moist ruby red, like a red kidney bean. If the liver is brown or has an odd iridescence to it, discard it.
Foul Odor: Again, a fresh and healthy liver should smell neutral, even vaguely sweet. Any sour, nasty or putrid odor is an obvious warning sign. Don’t eat it!
Proper Preparation is Important for Taste and Safety
Although cooking will not help you with a liver that is already bad, it can make a fresh, healthy liver safe to eat and much tastier.
If you have not picked up on the vibe by now, I am trying to encourage you to thoroughly cook your deer liver if you have the time, resources, and opportunity to do so.
There are many different ways you could cook your deer liver. You could fry it, bake it, broil it, sauté it, or even grill it as is.
In all cases, heating it up, all the way through until well done at a temp of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, is key to safety.
If you have doubts about the ability of your fire or other appliance to do a good job of it, don’t hesitate to cube or slice the liver thinly to help it cook more evenly and quickly.
And as always, when preparing meat of any kind, be sure to wash your hands, countertops, and all utensils thoroughly with hot soapy water to avoid cross-contamination.
It is possible to cook the liver properly and still infect yourself with bad handling practices!
Maybe the furthest thing from your mind under the circumstances, but it would suck to fall prey to germs after surviving everything else!
Can You Eat Other Deer Organs?
Since we are on the topic of deer liver, it begs the question if other deer organs make for good eating. Happily, yes, several of them, too.
Deer heart, for example, is a perennial favorite and very “clean” compared to other organs.
Deer kidneys are not very popular in the U.S., but can make for good eating after careful preparation and, ideally, soaking to remove their usually rough taste.
The stomach and intestines are also edible after careful prep and cleaning to expel their contents; you don’t want to mess this part up!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.