Minnesota's deer hunters can once again donate their kill to food shelves around the state.
Nicole Neeser, who oversees the venison donation program at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said that program, now in its seventh year, has multiple benefits.
"It's one way to help us control our deer population. And then of course, most importantly, we're getting high-quality protein, lean protein, to food shelves -- that sometimes food shelves aren't easily able to get," Neeser said.
Hunters who want to donate their deer have to take it to an approved processor. The state pays those processors $70 per deer to cut up and package the venison. The state also screens the meat to make sure it hasn't been contaminated by lead from ammunition, but certain people should still be careful about eating it.
"Hunter-harvested or firearms-harvested venison can always contain traces of lead, and so people who might be particularly susceptible to lead toxicity, particularly young children, pregnant women, maybe immune-compromised people or the elderly may want to limit how much they consume over time," Neeser said.
Neeser said donations fluctuate with the deer harvest. Last year hunters donated 350 deer to food shelves, down considerably from 2008, when they gave 650 carcasses.