Growing up as a gamekeeper’s son, I have always been interested in the processing of venison and other wild game. From the age of ten I had to earn my pocket money; jobs such as paunching and skinning rabbits for the local cattery on a weekly basis will always stick in my mind. I even reared my own turkeys and geese, so I could sell them to friends and family at Christmas. I was never phased by the whole process of slaughtering the birds and dressing them.

At the age of fifteen, I had found myself working in a local butchers, starting out as most do by scrubbing the fridges and butchers blocks. I found a real passion in butchery and now, fifteen years down the line, I’m still in the trade and still enjoying it as much as I always have.

My main hobby in life is deer stalking, and personally, I feel there is nothing more rewarding than harvesting a deer, skinning it, butchering it and eating it!

Over the next few editions I am going to be talking you through the process of butchering a deer carcass.

There are many ways to break the carcass down and many different cuts, but I am going to talk you through the most common way.

The carcass is in four sections. These are called the primal cuts.


Saddle/back strap/loin



Starting today, I will be demonstrating how to break the carcass up into these primal cuts. The reason we do this, is not only to make it more manageable to handle, but also because each primal has its own different texture and tenderness. For example, the neck would not be suitable for quick cooking, where as the back strap would.

Lay the carcass on its back. Mark the breast with a knife. This is where you are going to saw and cut.

Score the carcass to indicate where your cut will be

Cut through the flesh and saw through the bone.

Along the line, saw through the ribs

Count in between the 5th and 6th rib bone and cut down with your knife. Then saw through the remainder of the bone. The reason I do not cut the shoulders shorter is because if you are roasting the neck end of the loin you may find that this can be a little tougher, so in my opinion an extra rib or two to go into a shoulder slow roast or stewing really won’t hurt.

Make a cut between the 5th and 6th rib bones

Depending on whether you would like the chumps left on the leg or the loin determines where your next cut will be. For this example, I will leave them on the legs. Rolling the carcass onto its side you can feel where the vertebrae and the pelvic bone join. Cut just below the pelvic bone and then saw through the remainder of the bone.

Feel for where the last vertebrae meets the pelvis and make your cut


So there you have your four primal cuts.

Four primal cuts and a much more manageable carcass

Article by Tim Hanks