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Meat from deer cull to be donated in Ann Arbor

The meat from Ann Arbor's deer cull is on its way to an area food bank.

Local charity Food Gatherers will receive the venison from the cull. Area meat processors are grinding the meat for consumption after the Department of Natural Resources conducts tests on the animals. 

The city's cull permitrequires the meat be donated.  Eileen Spring, president of Food Gatherers, said her organization has no position on the cull itself, and did not solicit the donation in any way. 

She said the group is always taking food donations that meet safety regulations and that this gift represents a small blip in their larger operation.

"We're distributing about 20,000 pounds of food a day in Washtenaw County and we estimate that the amount of venison that we'll get through this process will be, like, a tiny, tiny amount of what we would do in one week," she said. 

Statewide organization Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger, which connects hunters looking to make donations with meat companies, is facilitating the venison processing, paying the processors for their work. 

MSAH President Dean Hall said preparing venison is a lot of work for not much money, and this meat is really a donation from the companies as well. He said his organization is providing a dollar per pound of processed meat. 

Hall said the meat processors are not immune to the scrutiny of anti-cull activists. The cull has generated opposition both from animal rights groups and people uncomfortable with allowing hunting in public parks. Hall said it's not uncommon for some to take issue with each step of the process, from shooting to meat distribution. 

"We've had processors in the past that were threatened," he said. "It's not exactly the right thing to do but sometimes people just do things irrationally for whatever reason."

He said Ann Arbor hopes to shoot around 100 deer but it's hard to estimate how much meat that will produce without knowing the size of each animal.  

Hall explained that the DNR are testing the deer for chronic wasting disease, which experts check for in the animal's brain. Still, he said this is just a precaution; cooked meat should be safe to eat. Chad Stewart, DNR Deer Management Specialist, said the test has less to do with food safety and is more for the department's research into the possible spread of CWD in neighboring counties. 

In terms of the cull itself, Hall said he's spoken with plenty of people who encounter deer while driving, and he'd rather the deer go to good use, such as food donations, than have them continue to be a problem.

"We can't utilize roadkill," he said. "Animals are, especially game animals like deer, they're a living resource and unless something is done to manage them then they're just going to keep procreating to the point to where they get a dense number that harms their health, as well as taking away from food substance and shelter from ground-dwelling animals and other animals, and other resources as well."