What do trappers do with the meat?

Trappers have a few different options when it comes to dealing with the meat from the animals they trap. Some key questions trappers need to consider are: What is the quality and amount of meat? Does it need to be used quickly? Who will be consuming it? What regulations are there around donation or sale? Looking at these questions helps trappers determine the best use for the meat.

What Animals Do Trappers Target?

Trappers target a variety of furbearing animals including coyotes, bobcats, beavers, raccoons, muskrats, foxes, opossums, skunks, mink, and nutria. The most common animals trapped for fur in the United States are raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, beavers, muskrats, foxes, and opossums. The meat from these animals varies in amount and quality.

What Is Done With the Meat?

There are four main options for trappers when it comes to dealing with the meat from furbearing animals:

1. Use it for Personal Consumption
2. Donate it
3. Discard it
4. Sell it Commercially

The choice depends on regulations, personal preference, quality of meat, and amount available.

Using the Meat for Personal Consumption

Many trappers and their families will eat the meat themselves. Of the popular furbearing animals, raccoon, muskrat, beaver, and coyote meat are most commonly consumed. Here are some key points about eating wild game meat from trapping:

Interest in Utilizing the Resource

Trappers have an interest in utilizing all parts of the animals they catch. Eating the meat allows them to get full value from the animal. Trapping is time and labor intensive, so trappers are motivated to use everything possible.

Supplementing the Family Diet

Wild game can provide variety in the family diet. Many trappers come from rural backgrounds where hunting and trapping is a way of life. The meat is shared within the family and community.

Sustainability and Frugality

Using the meat promotes sustainability and frugality. Trappers can stock their freezer with meat at no additional cost. It reduces waste from the animals.

Preference for Wild Flavor

Some trappers prefer the flavor of wild meat to farm-raised meat. The animals eat natural diets in the wild. The meat has a different taste than domestic livestock.

Caution Over Parasites and Disease

Eating the meat requires proper preparation to kill parasites and disease. Some animals pose more risk than others. Proper handling, prep and cooking are essential.

Most Commonly Consumed Meats

Raccoon, muskrat, beaver and coyote are most commonly eaten by trappers and their families. Other meats may be edible but are less desirable or riskier.

Donating the Meat

Trappers will often donate meat to friends, families, community members, food banks, and shelters. This allows more use of the resource. Here are key points about donating trapped meat:

Community Sharing

Sharing meat with other community members is a common practice. Trappers build relationships through exchanges of meat.

Supporting Food Assistance Programs

Donated meat provides high-protein options for food banks and shelters. This supports nutrition for those in need.

Following Regulations

There are regulations around donation. Trappers follow guidelines to ensure safety and legality. Proper licensing is required in most areas.

Focus on High-Quality Meat

Food banks prefer high-quality meat from animals like beaver and venison. The meat needs to be properly handled for donation.

Avoiding Waste

Donating prevents good meat from being discarded. More people can benefit from the resource rather than it being wasted.

Promoting Sustainability

Sharing and donating the meat promotes efficient use of natural resources from the animals caught. This supports conservation efforts.

Discarding the Meat

In some cases, trappers have no use for the meat and will discard it. Reasons for discarding the meat include:

Regulations on Certain Species

Some animals like skunks and opossums cannot be used for food safety reasons. Their meat must be discarded.

Small Size or Damaged Animals

It may not be worth trying to use the meat from small animals or those that are damaged. The amount usable is too little.

Excess Meat Beyond Need

If trappers already have enough meat for themselves, they avoid waste by discarding excess. Freezers can only hold so much.

Spoiled or Rotten Meat

Meat left unattended for too long can spoil. At a certain point it becomes unsafe for consumption.

Lack of Proper Handling

Meat that wasn’t field dressed and handled properly at the trapping site may be discarded if no longer usable.

Costs of Processing

The costs of having certain meats processed may be more than what the trapper wants to spend.

Avoiding any Health Risks

If there is any doubt about parasites or disease, trappers will err on the side of caution and discard the meat. Safety first.

Selling Meat Commercially

While not as common, some trappers are able to sell meat commercially. Here are some key considerations:

Requires Following Regulations

Commercial sale of wild game meat is regulated. Trappers must follow health codes and licensing requirements.

Certain Animals Prohibited

Some species cannot be sold commercially due to health risks associated with them. Only low-risk meats can be approved.

Must Use Approved Butchering Facilities

The meat must be processed at an approved and inspected butchering facility in order to be sold commercially.

Viability Depends on Regulations in Area

Whether commercial sale is viable depends on the state and local regulations where the trapper lives. Some ban it completely.

Low Demand Limits Market

There is lower consumer demand for game meat compared to traditional livestock. The niche market limits opportunities for trappers.

Requires Advertising and Marketing

Developing a customer base takes time and effort through advertising, farmers markets, and other sales channels.

Provides Supplemental Income

For the few able to sell commercially, it offers useful supplemental income from trapping activities. But it involves significant work.

Factors Impacting Use of Meat

Trappers take many factors into account when determining the best use for meat from furbearing animals. These include:

Personal Preference

Whether the trapper has interest in utilizing the meat for personal use or sale.

Amount and Quality of Meat

If the animal provides enough usable meat to make keeping it worth the effort.

Health and Safety Risks

Some meats may pose unacceptable risks of disease or parasites.

Effort Required

The work involved in properly preparing, butchering, and storing the meat.

Storage Capability

If the trapper has capability to store the meat properly. Access to freezers.

State and Local Regulations

The legal framework around donation, personal use, and commercial sale in the area.

Access to Approved Butchering Facilities

Whether there are approved butchers available to process meats for sale commercially.

Existing Relationships and Communities

If the trapper has a ready avenue to donate meat or an existing customer base to sell to.

Costs of Processing

What processing fees or costs may be involved in preparing the meat for use or sale.

Most Common Practices

Looking at all these factors, some general trends emerge in how trappers utilize meat:

Personal and Family Use

The most common practice is using meat for the trapper’s family and personal consumption. This allows full use of resources.

Sharing Within Community

Donating and sharing meat locally is also very common among trappers. This builds community relationships.

Focus on Prime Cuts When Possible

Trappers try to utilize prime cuts of meat when practical, especially for personal use or sale. These include ham/haunch, shoulders, backstraps.

Discarding Meat Judiciously

Trappers avoid wanton waste. They will discard meat only when necessary for health or practicality reasons.

Commercial Sale Very Limited

Few trappers are able to sell meat commercially due to the various regulations. Most meat is used either personally or donated locally.

Following All Regulations

Whether using personally or donating/selling, trappers are careful to follow health regulations and guidelines for safe handling.

Consumption Risks and Safe Preparation

Consuming meat from trapped furbearers does carry some health risks. Proper handling and cooking helps mitigate these risks.


Disease/Parasite Primary Species Key Points
Trichinosis Wild pigs, bears, cougars Killed by thorough cooking.
Toxoplasmosis Coyotes, foxes Avoid if pregnant. Cook to safe temperature.
Giardia Beavers Mainly affects ingesting water. Cook properly.
Tularemia Rabbits, rodents Uncommon. Take precautions field dressing.


  • Wear gloves when handling raw meat
  • Discard any meat with abnormalities or unknown origins
  • Cook all wild game to an internal temperature of 160°F minimum
  • Avoid consuming brains, spinal cords, organs of infected animals
  • Keep cooked and uncooked meat properly separated
  • Refrigerate promptly after butchering
  • Cure meats like hams fully before eating uncooked

Properly handled and prepared, meat from trapped furbearers provides a local, sustainable food source. But caution should be taken to do so safely.


Trappers utilize the meat from furbearers in several main ways. The most common practices are for family consumption, community sharing through donation, and judicious discarding when necessary. Commercial sales are very limited due to regulations. Proper handling, preparation and cooking help mitigate health risks when consuming the meat. With care and caution, trapped furbearer meat can be a sustainable supplement to a trapper’s food resources. But safety should always come first.

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