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By Dan Zarlenga
St. LOUIS, Mo.—$7 may not seem like a lot of money these days, but it can go a long way feeding those in need, thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Share the Harvest Program.
Share the Harvest provides food to the hungry through deer meat donated by hunters. Hunters can choose to give part or all of any deer they harvest. They simply bring their deer to an approved meat processor to process the venison, usually into ground meat, where it is then packaged for distribution.
More families than ever are currently facing financial challenges brought on by COVID-19. Consider that a deer tag for a doe costs a hunter only $7. Imagine how many times over that tag can pay for itself with the amount of nutritious and healthy venison it can provide families in need.
Share the Harvest is a statewide partnership between MDC, the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM), cooperating meat processors, and hunters. The St. Louis area is fortunate to have another key partner in the program, Operation Food Search (OFS). Thanks to contributions by OFS, St. Louis area hunters donating whole deer through Share the Harvest can do so with no processing fees.
The Overland-based non-profit hunger relief organization feeds 200,000 people in need each month through over 200 outlets in the metro area.
“A lot of our community food partners are always asking for deer meat, it’s a hot commodity item and its actually very valuable,” said Jack Baran, OFS Food Donations Manager. “Protein is one of the most expensive items and the number one in demand,” he explained.
Meat processors typically charge around $100 to process a deer into ready-to-prepare meat. The CFM has funding to cover $60 for hunters donating whole deer statewide. Cooperating processors in St. Louis City and St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson Counties agree to cap their deer processing fees at $80 per deer. Operation Food Search also contributes $20 per deer, completely offsetting the processing fee for donating hunters. All members in the partnership work together to completely absorb the costs for hunters who donate their entire deer.
“Operation Food Search is helping reduce costs for hunters who want to donate whole deer to Share the Harvest, so it’s easier for them to participate,” MDC Conservation Agent Corporal Jeff Breuer said.
The following is a list of meat processors in the St. Louis Region that offer no cost processing for hunters donating whole deer, grouped by county.
Kenrick’s Meats and Catering, South St. Louis County
John’s Butcher Shoppe, Overland
G&W Meats and Bavarian Sausage, St. Louis
Max’s Meats and Deli, Florissant
Josephville Meat Processing, Wentzville
Dittmer Meat Packing, Dittmer
John’s Butcher Shop, Festus
Corporal Breuer reminded hunters that deer harvested from Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone counties can be donated only to processors participating in the Share the Harvest CWD Testing Program. For a list of these processors, visit mdc.mo.gov/share.
“I think our local hunters are the most important people in this partnership and we couldn’t do it without them,” Baran stressed. “We’re very lucky and grateful they’re part of this program.”
For more details on the Share the Harvest program, and a complete list of approved meat processors, go to https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zoz.