Venison originally meant the meat of a game animal but now refers primarily to the meat of deer (or antelope in South Africa).[1] Venison can be used to refer to any part of the animal, so long as it is edible, including the internal organs. Venison, much like beef or pork, is categorized into specific cuts, including roast, sirloin, and ribs.


Raw venison escalope

The word derives from the Latin venari, meaning "to hunt or pursue".[2] This term entered the English language through Norman French venaison in the 11th century, following the Norman conquest of England and the establishment of Royal Forests.


Venison originally described meat of any game animal killed by hunting[3] and was applied to any animal from the families Cervidae (true deer), Leporidae (rabbits and hares), Suidae (wild boar) and certain species of the genus Capra (goats and ibex).

In Southern Africa, the word venison refers to the meat of antelope,[4] a Bovidae taxon, as there are no native Cervidae in sub-Saharan Africa.


Venison may be eaten as steaks, tenderloin, roasts, sausages, jerky, and minced meat. It has a flavor reminiscent of beef.[5] Cuts of venison tend to have a finer texture and be leaner than comparable cuts of beef.[6] However, like beef, leaner cuts can be tougher as well. Venison burgers are typically so lean as to require the addition of fat in the form of bacon, beef, olive oil, or cheese to achieve parity with hamburger cooking time, texture, and taste.[7] Organ meats (offal) of deer can also be eaten. Traditionally, they are called hombres (originally the Middle English hombres). This is supposedly the origin of the phrase "humble pie", meaning a pie made from the organs of a deer.[8][9]

Venison escalope cooking in sauce

Health benefits and concerns

When sourced correctly from a healthy deer, venison can be healthy meat for human consumption.[10] Venison is higher in moisture and protein, more diverse in amino acids, and lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat than most cuts of grain-fed beef, pork, or lamb.[11] It can be virtually assured that a hunted deer has never been bred or raised in unnatural conditions, confined to a cage, fed an unnatural diet of grain, or been injected with any antibiotics - resulting in a very high level of nourishment stored in its body.

However, since it is unknown whether chronic wasting disease (CWD)--a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy among deer (similar to mad cow disease among cattle)--can pass from deer to humans through the consumption of venison, there have been some fears of dangerous contamination of the food supply from wild deer carrying CWD.[12] The disease has been found among farmed deer in the US and western Canada, but New Zealand has not identified the disease among its herd.[citation needed]

According to the CDC[citation needed], the Toxoplasma gondii parasite can also be transmitted through human consumption of undercooked or raw venison if it did not reach an internal temperature of 145 °F (63 °C) for whole pieces of meat, or 160 °F (74 °C) for ground venison. The CDC also says that freezing meat for several days in sub-zero (0 °F or −18 °C) temperatures can greatly reduce the chances of infection by toxoplasmosis.

Hunters are advised not to shoot for food a deer that appears sick or is acting strangely, and they are also advised to take general precautions in examining the meat from deer they have killed.[13]


Czech Republic

Venison (as well as other game meats, mainly wild boar) is a part of traditional cuisine and is commonly eaten, not considered a specialty. Dishes such as deer goulash are often on restaurant menus.[14] A variety of venison (roe, red and fallow deer, mouflon) and other game meat is widely available in butcher shops in fresh state, distributed by wholesalers,[15] as well as in big retail chains such as Tesco, at prices similar to beef or pork, around 200 CZK or 8 EUR per kilogram. Despite the popularity and low prices, in recent years the production of venison has surpassed demand, and is therefore often used in production of animal food.[16]

New Zealand

New Zealand has large populations of wild and farmed deer, making venison a relatively common meat. It is widely available in supermarkets.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

In England, hunting rights were restricted in an effort to preserve property rights. As a result, the possession and sale of venison was tightly regulated under English law,[17] although it is readily available commercially.

United States

In the United States, venison is less common at retail due to the requirement that the animal first be inspected by USDA inspectors. There are very few abattoirs which process deer in North America, and most of this venison is destined for restaurants. Where deer are considered an invasive species, companies such as Molokai Wildlife Management and Maui Nui Venison that hunt axis deer in Hawaii, combine culling with USDA certification and retail sale.[18][19] Most venison sold through retail in the United States are farmed from New Zealand and Tasmania. It is available through some high-end specialty grocers and some chains which focus on more "natural" meats. Non-retail venison is often obtained through hunting and self-processing or contracting to small meat processing facilities to do the processing for the hunter, but sale of the finished meat is usually illegal.[20]

The American sandwich chain Arby's gained attention in October 2016 when word leaked through social media that they were about to test a venison sandwich. Arby's later confirmed that they had selected 17 stores in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin (all major deer hunting states) to offer a venison sandwich during a four-day test during those states' hunting seasons. Both due to curiosity and heavy demand from hunters, the sandwiches sold out in all markets on the first day of the test.[21]


  1. ^ "Definition: Venison".
  2. ^ "Venison".
  3. ^ "Venison – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". 31 August 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  4. ^ Bull, Gregory Simon (2007). Marketing fresh venison in the Eastern Cape Province using a niche marketing strategy (PDF) (MTech). Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. p. xcix. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  5. ^ Suzanne Driessen (10 November 2003). "Wild Game Cookery: Venison". Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  6. ^ Aidoo, Kofi E. (28 June 2008). "Nutritional and chemical composition of farmed venison". Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 8 (6): 441–446. doi:10.1111/j.1365-277X.1995.tb00339.x. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  7. ^ Margaret (7 July 2020). "Tips for Moist and Juicy Venison Burgers | Kitchen Frau". Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  8. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  9. ^ "New noumbles of Deer (recipe) – Cunnan". 10 June 2004. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  10. ^ Kyle, Emily (8 August 2022). "7 Surprising Health Benefits of Venison". Cook Venison!. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  11. ^ USDA Nutrient Database, NDB numbers 17348, 13434, 10023 and 17060
  12. ^ Belay ED; Maddox RA; Williams ES; Miller MW; Gambetti P; Schonberger LB (June 2004). "Chronic Wasting Disease and Potential Transmission to Humans". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 10 (6). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 977–984. doi:10.3201/eid1006.031082. PMC 3323184. PMID 15207045.
  13. ^ "Recommendations for Hunters".
  14. ^ "Restaurace | Petron". Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Processing and selling of game meat | Zvěřina BERBERA s.r.o." Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  16. ^ "S šípkovou, nebo se zelím? Zvěřiny je moc, končí i v krmivech pro mazlíčky". 19 October 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  17. ^ LaCombe, Michael (2012). Political Gastronomy: Food and Authority in the English Atlantic World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 84. ISBN 9780812207156.
  18. ^ Krebs, Natalie (16 June 2021). "The Outdoor Life Podcast: Meet the Godfather of Hawaiian Market Hunting". Outdoor Life. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
  19. ^ Bernabe, Danielle (17 December 2021). "How Eating Hawai'i's Invasive Deer Saves Its Ecosystems". Bon Appétit. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
  20. ^ not Sterba, not Jim (18 October 2013). "No Hunters May Sell Venison". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  21. ^ Whitten, Sarah (8 November 2016). "Arby's venison sandwich a hit with hunters, quickly selling out". CNBC. Retrieved 8 October 2017.