The aim of this guide is to provide a basic introduction to venison butchery covering the primal breakdown of a venison carcass. Note that once a carcass is skinned, it is no longer a “primary product” but becomes venison and is subject to different legislation with respect to processing and supply. This guide is linked to the Carcass Preparation series of guides.

  • The carcass should be skinned as soon as it has been lardered.* The carcass should then remain hung in the larder initially to enable the heat to dissipate from the carcass slowly in the first 6 hours after skinning. This will ensure the full and rapid onset of rigor mortis and will prevent ‘cold shortening’ of the soft muscles in the carcass. The carcass should then be hung in a chilled environment with good air flow at 0° to 4° C for up to 10 days to ensure tenderness and the desired maturation level. There should be no contact with other carcasses and skinned carcasses should be hung separately from any that are unskinned .* Whether primary cuts are made with the carcass suspended (as shown) or lying flat on a cutting table will be down to individual experience and preference.
  • Begin by ensuring that all work areas, equipment and hands are clean

Neck removal

  • The shoulder blocks are removed from the main part of the carcass by opening the seam indicated (figs. 2 & 3) and following the shape of the blade bone.
  • The shoulder block consists of three sections containing the blade bone, humerus bone and the fore leg. To prepare the shoulder, these are removed separately starting with the blade bone (fig.5). Once completed the process is repeated on the other side of the carcass. The shoulder block can be further broken down into smaller cuts (fig.4).

Forequarter removal

  • Make an incision between the 5th and 6th rib (counting from the neck end), saw through the sternum bone (fig.6).
  • Make a square cut to the backbone and then saw through the backbone keeping the saw in line with the ribs. Take care to only saw through bone and not into the underlying muscles on the opposite side of the carcass.
  • Follow the saw cut with a steak knife following the rib to remove the pair of forequarters by sawing through the sternum on the other side of the carcass (fig.7). Make sure that all bone dust is removed from both surfaces.

Splitting the aitch bone

  • Using a steak knife cut exactly in the centre of the 2 haunches onto the pelvic bone, exert some pressure on the knife. In a young animal the aitch bones will divide through the cartilage. On older animals a saw will be needed to part the 2 haunches. Make sure that if a saw is used all bone dust is removed from both surfaces.

Breakdown of the hindquarters

  • The following processes are carried out on the cutting table for ease of operation.

Flank removal

  • The first part of the operation involves the removal of the flanks. Make a cut parallel to the backbone of the carcass to finish at the ribs - the length of the ribs can be decided by the size of the carcass. This is indicated by the area in blue.
  • Make the ribs longer so that the loins maybe rolled into joints at a later stage if required or cut shorter for steaks. Repeat the process on the other side of the hindquarter.

Kidney and suet fat removal

  • The kidneys and fat surrounding them is removed carefully by easing away the suet from the abdominal cavity, take extreme care not to cut into any underlying muscles when carrying out this operation.

Tenderloin removal

  • To enable the carcass to be broken down into hunches and a saddle the tenderloins are removed completely first.
  • Cut around the head of the tenderloin and cut away from the pelvic bone.
  • To remove the tenderloins follow the vertebrae on each side of the carcass to remove completely intact.  The lumbar vertebrae have 'T' bones that are exposed when the tenderloins are removed.

Saddle removal

  • The saddle is prepared using a sheet boning method to remove the striploins from each side of the vertebrae. Care must be taken to ensure that the knife is always pressed onto the ribs.

Haunch removal

  • Situated on top of the pelvic cavity the point where the sacrum (tail) is connected to the aitch bone is a fused joint. This can be opened by inserting a boning knife at the angle illustrated. Follow the division towards the tail area and the haunch falls away.
  • Cut around the end of the aitch bone as shown in the picture. The process is then repeated on the other side to remove the opposite haunch. The haunch can be further broken down into smaller cuts (see illustrations).

Haunch preparation

The haunch can be further broken down into smaller cuts.

Aitch bone removal

  • Carefully remove the aitch bone without any incisions into the underlying muscles of the haunch.

Shin removal

  • Open the stifle joint between the shin and the main part of the haunch
  • Remove the shin by first cutting the Achilles tendon and then following the seam leading to the opened stifle joint. After removal the shin is deboned.

Haunch muscle separation

  • Divide the haunch firstly by the seam indicated on top of the Thick Flank muscle.
  • Use a boning knife to detach the muscles attached to the femur. When the bone is fully exposed the whole of the bone can be viewed from end to end.
  • Remove the femur bone carefully by detaching the muscle with the boning knife and then using the fingers to clean the meat from the bone, remove the bone clean from the haunch. Remove the patella or knee cap to produce a boneless haunch.
  • Remove the thick flank muscle by following the silver wall gristle shown.
  • After removing the rump, split the Topside and Silverside by the seam shown