Date: Tue, 1 Jul 1997 08:53:50 -0400
Subject: Re: >Re: Dropping deer in their tracks
I suppose I should be a nice guy and not stomp Mike too hard, but the
pedant in me demands that some of this misinformation be corrected:
mike pencak wrote:
> Commercially slaughtered animals are bled out to minimize spoilage.
Commercially slaughtered animals are bled out mainly to kill them and to
improve the flavor of the meat.
> Blood being well oxigenated and loaded with nutrients, it is the first
> product to spoil.
Blood is not always "well oxygenated." and within a few seconds after
death, there is no oxygen in it at all. That's the reason the animal
dies, in fact: cellular-level anoxia. Furthermore, post-mortem artifacts
in the form of tissue breakdown begin in almost all cell types within
minutes of death. Certainly they are detectable in muscle fibers at the
sub-microscopic level within 10 minutes...and in that time, the oxygen
carrying cells of the blood are still intact. Anyone who doubts this is
welcome to come to my lab; we will nuke a mouse and I'll prepare it for
the electron microscope, and show you the intact, un-lysed blood cells in
the vessels; and the hyper-contracted muscle cells with swollen
mitochondria (the first sign of degeneration) if we leave the poor beast
out at room temperature for, of, 10 minutes or so.
> It is also unsightly when found congealed in arteries
> and veins.
Except that: 1) you aren't likely to find it congealed in arteries,
because the elasticity of arterial walls propels it out; and 2) you
aren't likely to find it "congealed" even in veins, because within about
24 hours, the blood cells do undergo lysis and the blood liqufies. It
does clot ("congeal" is not really the proper term, but we know what you
mean) and eventually separate, but it breaks down after that--and after
the other cells in the body begin the process.
> I believe the root cause of "Gaminess" is adrenaline. Animals that have
> been harried/pursued/terrified just before being killed are usually much
> more "Gamy" than those who were placidly feeding before being "Dropped in
> their tracks".
This makes intutitve sense but it's probably not correct. If anything
causes the flavor of a scared animal to be different it's not adrenaline,
it's lactic acid built up in the muscles during exercise and not removed
by later reversion to an aerobic (oxygen using) mode of respiration.
Furthermore, the total quantity of adrenaline present is minute;
certainly on the order of micrograms, if not nanograms, in the entire
body of the deer. It's highly unlikely anyone would taste such quantites
of adrenalin that's distributed through 40 kg of meat--not to mention all
the other stuff that is discarded.
>That is the result of their tissues being suffused with
> Adrenaline, the superdrug that aids the "Fight or Flight" response.
Adrenaline isn't a "drug" in any sense of the word, unless it's the kind
you buy (extracted from tissues) and inject in yourself. Adrenaline is a
hormone produced by the animal. All vertebrates have it, and it's a
neurotransmitter chemical in some parts of the nervous system. It is,
indeed, a "fight or flight" hormone: adrenalin receptors are present on
nearly all cells, and releasing it into the blood stream is a sort of
"general quarters" alarm signal all cells can recognize and react to.
> Think back to your last good fright/near miss situation, after the weak
> knees/shakes/pounding heart/dry mouth sensations faded, remember that
> metallic taste left in your mouth? Like a mouthful of copper pennies?
> That was leftover adrenaline and adrenal by-products.
Oh, my....no, sir, it was not. The effects you describe are certainly
those of a good scare, but you certainly don't taste adrenaline. It's
circulating in the blood until it's bound by the cells at the receptor
sites. The odd taste in your mouth is the result of the activities of
various exocrine salivary glands--mostly their being shut down. It
certainly isn't the taste of adrenaline!
> Thats the reason
> that some venison tastes like strong (old) liver.
The reason some venison tastes like liver is because there is blood in
it. If you doubt this, shoot some calm, unalarmed deer in the neck. Let
him sit for an hour or so before you gut him, to give the blood a good
opportunity to clot. Then when you do gut him, be very careful not to
lose too much blood. Eat the meat. You will find it has the liver
flavor, and if it doesn't, you can send the uneaten portion to me for a
>The adrenals rest atop
> the liver and are responsible for that characteristic taste of liver.
I really don't want to lash you too hard, but this is something that you
could easily have checked, and obviously didn't, so you deserve the wet
noodle on the neck for that howler. The adrenals are sometimes called
the "suprarenal glands" because the sit not on the liver, but on the
kidneys, embedded in the fat at the cranial ends. One per kidney. They
have no connection with or contact with the liver at all. Any half-way
decent anatomy book, even the average Reader's Digest-level "Home Medical
Encyclopedia" would have shown you a picture of where the adrenal glands
are located, and for that matter, anyone who's bothered to look over the
guts of a deer while field-dressing it will have seen that there sum
total of adrenal glands "atop the liver" is precisely zero. Take THAT!
Now we come to the question of what give liver its characteristic
flavor...it's blood, not the adrenal glands which you discarded when you
tossed the kidneys in the gut pile. Structurally the liver is a sort of
giant sponge, millions upon millions of passages for blood from the gut
drainage to enter and trickle through--and by the way, that blood is
almost entirely from the venous circulation, and it certainly isn't
"highly oxygenated"--and the flow through it is under low pressure; more
of an oozing than anything else. The liver is one of the few places in
the mammalian body, in fact, where significant amounts of liquid blood
are collected. That's what gives it its color and its flavor. That plus
the bile it produces.
> I believe that deer that don't die instantly, have sufficient time to
> pump their tissues full of adrenaline
They have time to pump out a few micrograms of it; not "full" by any
stretch of the imagination.
>It has been my
> experience that deer that have been "Disconnected" by a bullet to the
> Medulla/Upper Spinal column, have had the best tasting meat, even though
> they have not "Pumped Out".
Nope, I'd have to say this is not my own experience. A neck shot that
doesn't sever the arteries and allow the deer to bleed will leave blood
in the meat and affect the flavor--adversely to some, favorably to
others. But the significant factor here is the lack of exsanguination.
We pen-raised featherless bipeds are used to eating meat that has been
killed by exsanguination, and if you want venison that tastes like that,
you have to kill it the same way it would be killed in a slaughter plant.
If one were slaughtering a deer on a deer farm, one would stun it with a
captive bolt gun, slit its throat with the heart still pumping, and allow
it to bleed out.
Now let me ask you this; ever been to a slaughter plant? Ever seen
cattle or sheep milling around in the pens, witing for their turn, and
with blood all over the killing floor? Do you think they aren't excited?
Do you think they aren't under fear stress? Do you think they aren't
"pumping themselves full of adrenaline" as you put it? I guarantee you
those beasts, dumb as they are, know perfectly well what's going on, and
they are frantic to get out. Put 200 sheep in a pen, squeeze them
through a chute and whack them on the head, and see how excited the last
180 or so are when they come into the chute, because even a sheep can
figure it out if he has enough time. Ditto for cattle.
There's a buffalo farm near here, and last Saturday I went to a
restaurant and had buffalo steak for dinner. If I hadn't known what it
was, I couldn't have told it from beef. Pen-raised buffalo and
pen-raised cattle taste the same; there isn't any "gaminess" in the
former. Wild buffalo that eat a variety of diets will taste differently
than domestic ones fed cattle rations.
The same is true for other animals. Deer taste of what they eat; and the
components of their diet and the residues they leave behind in the
tissues are far, far, more important determinants of meat quality and
flavor than adrenaline and its metabolites. Try this: shoot a deer after
a hard winter when it's been eating bark, and tell me what it tastes
like, compared to one that's been chowing down on an Ohio cornfield.
The idea that adrenaline causes "gamely" flavor is just one more old