Hunting season offers an annual windfall for meat processors

CROSS LANES, W.Va. — Although most West Virginians still butcher their own deer, there is a strong cottage industry which springs up during the fall deer hunting seasons. Across the state a lot of people make a nice chunk of holiday change processing venison.

The operations range from home based shops run out of a garage and basement to fully functional meat processing centers. Nearly all will be at their busiest during the Thanksgiving week as the buck season opens up.

Jim Sayre estimates his shop will process 700 to 1,000 deer during the two week buck season

Jim Sayre owns S&J Custom Meats in Cross Lanes. His operation is a custom butcher shop which opened in the 1980’s, but was sold a couple of years ago. Jim and his family have re-acquired the operation and will be open for deer season 2021.

“We’ll probably do 700 to a thousand,” Sayre said in a conversation on West Virginia Outdoors. “We just got the shop back, so we’re anticipating 75 to 100 on the first day.”

There are various rules when it comes to butchering. Those which are regulated by the USDA are restricted in what they are allowed to handle when it comes to wild game. Sayre said his status however, allows for deer processing.

“I’m a custom shop so a farmer can kill a beef and bring it to me or I can pick it up from a slaughter house. I always do the beef first, hogs second, and deer last, except during the gun season and I take nothing but deer.” Sayre explained.

Sayre and his family carefully custom cut all deer to the hunter’s specification.

He has various packages and price points for what customers can do with each animal. He said he’s also very careful to make sure the deer you bring to him is the deer you take home.

“We have a rail system out of the cooler. We roll one out, put it on the table and we totally process that one before we bring out another deer. There’s never more than one deer laying on the cutting table at the same time,” he explained.

Sayre also suggested hunters bringing deer to any shop toss a couple of bags of ice inside the carcass to cool it down. He said by 9 p.m. each evening all deer in his shop are inside a cooler and nobody leaves until all deer are handled.

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