Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill into law this month that allows the Share the Harvest program, which provides deer meat to those in need, to expand to include shelf-stable venison.
Joe Jerek, conservation department news services coordinator, said the state had regulated deer meat distributed by charitable organizations to be frozen and packaged.
Republican state Rep. Tim Remole introduced HB 1711, which allows the meat to be packaged in a shelf-stable way, including as snack sticks.
The previous statute stated that the deer meat must be frozen and packaged. This bill allows it to be frozen or packaged in a shelf-stable manner. Only deer meat will be allowed to be distributed.
Gov. Parson signed HB 1711 on July 14 and the law will be in effect when deer hunting season starts.
The Share the Harvest program is run in partnership between the Missouri Conservation Department and the Conservation Federation of Missouri.
The conservation federation was instrumental in the creation of the state agency.
Tyler Schwartze, conservation federation executive director, said they reimburse processors who process deer donated by hunters.
“CFM has successfully run the program for almost 30 years, but not without the help of so many partners, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, Feeding Missouri and their food banks and other private business donors,” Schwartze said. “We are looking forward to working with these partners to expand the program to include shelf-stable deer meat.”
Scott Baker, the executive director of Feeding Missouri, said the hope is to include protein-rich meat to the backpacks of school children in need.
Missouri deer hunters donated 348,535 pounds of venison to the state’s Share the Harvest program this past deer season. There are more than 100 participating meat processors in the state that grind the donated deer meat into ready-to-use packages.
Since the program was started in 1992, it has provided more than 4.3 million pounds of venison to feed hungry Missourians, which included 6,795 whole deer last season. At a quarter-pound per serving, there have been more than 17 million meals provided.
The meat stays within the local community where it’s donated.