Adrenaline and Meat Quality

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by wankerjake, Nov 8, 2019.

?

Adrenaline Affects the Meat

  1. Yes, it definitely does

    12 vote(s)
    30.0%
  2. I think it probably does

    9 vote(s)
    22.5%
  3. I think it’s unlikely to affect it much

    19 vote(s)
    47.5%
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  1. wankerjake

    wankerjake Member

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    Recently we've had discussions in another thread about wounded animals, adrenaline, and quality of meat. This can be a polarizing topic depending on the circumstances. Here are some thoughts I have on the matter. I feel somewhat strongly on the issue for a specific reason: when I was a young hunter I wanted to be a good one and I wanted to fit it and I loved sitting around a store or a campfire and hearing hunting tales and advice and I always pointed my ears and wanted to learn. Since I've become a reasonably successful outdoorsman I have learned that a lot of dogma in the hunting community ranges from real, to kind of real, to absolute bunk. As a kid, when my own experience differed from a known tradition or tale I constantly questioned the validity of my experiences.

    So, adrenaline and meat quality has always been an interesting topic for me, starting when I was a kid hearing the old, wise hunters talk about adrenaline and how it just ruins the meat. Makes it taste bad, makes it tough. Typical tales included:

    Uncle Chuck: "Billy shot a buck in the arse and it ran a lot and just tasted like garbage, had to throw it away. Whole thing was ruined."

    Joe Grundle: "Johnny did the same thing two years ago with an elk. Meat was nasty, we tossed it. That’s why I always make a clean kill. Right behind the shoulder boy, I get the heart and lungs both, every time."

    You’ve all heard it, perhaps you have the same stories. Perhaps you’ve told them. As children It makes us feel good to relate to a told story. It makes us feel good as adults too. It makes us feel uncomfortable to have a different idea than someone we look up to. We just want to be part of the group and what is adrenaline anyway but a nasty hormone that game animals produce when a kid or an unethical idiot doesn’t blow up their hearts and lungs both, by shooting them behind the shoulder with a single shot, usually using a venerable cartridge like Jack O’Connor? Legends are made and traditions are born and passed down the line based on oral tradition. This is not a new concept.

    We always butchered our own meat. I grew up on wild game and still consume a great deal of it. I was 13 when I killed my first cow elk. Shot her in the arse, we had a little tracking job and my dad put a finishing shot in her when we caught up because I couldn’t see it. I hope the forum will forgive me. I felt bad, and I asked “Dad. Is the meat going to be ok?”

    He said: “of course it is, why wouldn’t it be?”

    “Because I made a bad shot.”

    He shook his head and said something like “son, this wasn’t optimal but you’re still learning and these things happen to everyone at some point. This is a healthy cow, she's on the ground now, and we're going to eat her all year."

    I remember being scared about the meat quality, but he was right. We gutted and skinned her, she hung in camp a day or two while the rest of the party hunted, and then we took her home and butchered her. She was kept clean and dry and cold. We cut off the fat, washed off or cut around any bloodshot, and removed fat and large tendons. She tasted awesome and I was proud to contribute to the diet. I was relieved that the dreaded chemical 'adrenaline' failed to de-tenderize and otherwise taint the meat, make it 'gamey' and unfit for my consumption.

    I've always loved to hunt. I loved to hunt before I ever hunted. Performing the act was just confirmation. The sole goal of my life was to kill a buck and I did that when I was 12. It was everything I thought it could be and I hope I never lose my love of the hunt. It hasn't always been gravy. I've tracked animals, I've finished animals, and I've cut up a lot of meat. I'm not the most accomplished hunter in the world but I am generally successful and I have hunted or accompanied several hunts every year since I was 12. I have seen some things, I've been to some straight up rodeos, and I have made wild game the first and foremost staple in my diet. One thing I started to notice; the meat was pretty much always good if well taken care of and butchered well. This did not jive with the oral tradition. Sometimes we'd get an animal that seems extra tough or a little gamey... but it died well. Why was that? Sometimes we'd have a wounded animal to track and finish but the meat was fine. What the heck? Literal tons of deer and elk meat have died and passed across my table and by and large the oral tradition has seemed more like a myth. For some reason, this one was harder to let go of than others.

    Then I had to take a fair mount of anatomy and physiology courses and learned what adrenaline actually is. I learned what it does, when it is released, its role in fight or flight. I paid extra attention, since hunting is usually at the fore-front of my mind, and I drew additional conclusions...and I say that animals can die hard and still be tasty. In fact, adrenaline likely has very little to no bearing on the quality of meat. This assertion will be unpopular.

    The physiological and scientific basis for the phenomenon remains poor however, the explanations of what happens are varied (tough, taste bad, tastes funky etc), and the average Joe’s understanding of what adrenaline even is tends to be elementary. The idea that epinephrine, a natural hormone found in all mammals and that is routinely released during physiological stress and exercise of all forms, tastes inherently bad and causes meat to be unpalatable is not grounded by scientific evidence, nor it is really intuitive. Every animal that sees you first gets a shot of adrenaline, every double-lunged animal that runs 100 yards and dies gets a shot of adrenaline. Adrenaline is being released when animals get scared, when they get aroused, when they exert themselves, when they are wounded, when they die; clean deaths, hard deaths, medium agreeable deaths. Releasing adrenaline is a very main thing the body does to cope with blood loss and stress and pain and fear, to try and keep the animal alert and evasive and alive.

    If it taints the meat, then even good clean kills should be “a little” tainted. By this line of thought, every wing-shot bird, be it just traveling or flushed, is using adrenaline. Every one. Epinephrine starts 'pumping' from fear and during exertion after all. Fight or flight, right? Migrating birds are in ‘flight’ mode, would you agree? Flushed birds even more so, obviously. And then they are stoned from the air and plummet to the ground and either lay crumpled or try to run. Do the runners taste bad? The whole mess of quail or dove usually tasted good to me...why is that?

    Every animal hunted with dogs must be bad too right? Hunting rabbits with Beagles is an honorable chase, but...the meat must taste like garbage huh? Fact is that those rabbits have to be, by definition, "full of adrenaline." How did coursing for hares ever catch on? Same with lions and bears and deer chased with dogs. Deer drives? Migrating caribou? So many exceptions!

    If animals killed badly taste different, there’s no reason at all to believe it to be from adrenaline. But they really don’t taste differently provided the meat is taken care of properly. I’ve butchered and eaten enough game and domestic animals for slaughter to know there’s no appreciable difference between animals who have had the meat taken care of prior to butchering, and the butchering is done rightly. I would assert that other factors are more important, namely the care of the meat during field dressing, transport, and butchering. Dirty stuff needs to be cleaned or cut around. Bloodshot should be cleaned and cut around. Fat and heavy sinews should be removed from the grind pile. The carcass should be kept as clean and dry and cold as possible. The quality of death should be a focal point for the respect of the animal and for the honor and integrity of the hunt. The care of the carcass should be the focal point of protecting the integrity and quality of the meat.

    What say you hunters?
    **poll added to assess prevalence of ideas
     
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  2. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    You need another poll response option:

    “No affect, nothing but hillbilly pseudoscience.”
     
  3. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Scientific research on live domesticated animals tend to display that Adrenalin prompted by stress can and does affect meat quality...basically it tends to make the meat tougher and have less flavor. It does not display that flavor is changed, just generally that the meat has less flavor. Nothing I have read on heard claims anything really, about how much impact it has. Similar tests have shown that Hormones, either natural or injected have little to no effect. Again, this is a synopsis of many articles I have been reading since this subject first came up in another thread. Again, this is on domestic animals where flavor and meat quality can be regulated as to animal condition, what they have been fed and how they were processed with consistency. Something we will never be able to do in the field. For the most part, I believe that how the animal is handled and processed after the kill will have the most effect. Meat degrading because of adrenaline and stress much less. As I said on the other thread, the amount of stress and how long an animal has to deal with it before it is killed, probably matters also. Watched a nice buck chase a doe around my tree for 20 minutes last night. He came in chasing her and left chasing her. He was still chasing her when I lost sight of them both 1/4 mile away. Iffin he would have given me a decent shot, I would have taken it. How much the adrenaline was affecting the taste/tenderness of his meat would have been moot. His age probably would have had more to do with toughness and flavor as any adrenaline. The fact that meat flavor or tenderness may be affected because of stress/adrenaline will not make any decision for me, as to whether or not take the shot. It would also never affect the decision to put down a wounded animal that someone else wounded originally. Some things are more important than a slight variance in flavor/texture. In most cases, that slight amount of variance is probably not going to be noticed, an more than how the meat is prepared.

    JMTCs
     
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  4. desidog

    desidog Member

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    I don't know about adrenaline per say, but the only time I shot an inedible deer was when I shot a doe in the back of the head. The deer dropped instantly, but every muscle group was tensed... That meat stayed flexed and was tougher than jerky.
     
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  5. wankerjake

    wankerjake Member

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    Verm: haha I thought about that option but didn’t want to polarize the topic worse than With my lengthy opinion. But I thought about it:)

    Buck: I’m curious on how they separated adrenaline vs stress in those studies as variables. But I agree, for my practical purposes, it’s not a consideration. However for some it seems to be. Lot of people willing to shoot animals they have no intention of eating, and a lot of people thinking a bad shot ruins the whole animal. My experience is certainly different. Also, I’d allow, in general, wild animals are subjected to more stress as a whole than domestics, adrenaline aside.
     
  6. readyeddy

    readyeddy Member

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    I don't know about adrenaline, but I had an experience like desidog, except my deer was wounded. Even the tenderloins were hard like rubber.
     
  7. wankerjake

    wankerjake Member

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    I domed a calf elk one time. That sucker twitched and ran in place and kicked longer than any animal I’ve ever killed, nerves just went haywire. I had to wait forever to dress that thing.

    Meat was just excellent.
     
  8. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    Don't know if it's stress, adrenalin or what; but something other than improper care of the carcass can cause deer meat to taste bad.

    Growing up in WV. my favorite high school teacher claimed the Cherokees could walk a deer to death. While home on leave from the US Army a new tracking snow gave me the opportunity to test my teachers claim. Jumped a big 12 point buck at about 8:00 am and went after same. i meandered after the tracks and took about a 30 minute lunch break.

    Jumped the deer many times and had numerous opportunities to kill the animal but declined. By 1:00 pm the buck was resting more often. At about 4:00 pm i rounded a big rock and saw the buck standing with his tongue hanging out. Killed the buck, field dressed and dragged him off the mountain to a road; where i left the deer and walked to a friends home. Friend picked up the deer and took me home.

    Got out my topo map and checked the distance traveled; over nine miles. The meat was not fit to eat.
     
  9. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Unless you are getting a DRT shot every time you sling lead at a deer (head/neck shots- and most people don't do this) then the deer is probably going to run a little bit. With no legit data, my $ says the deer is going to run MOST of the time after a classic broadside shot- even if for only a short time/distance. Since the deer just got 1 or more holes poked in it, got the poo scared out of it, and is running away with a wound that will eventually kill it, it seems reasonable to me that there is adrenaline pumping about in MOST deer that are shot before they finally expire. The data that I DO have is that I have killed plenty of deer in my life, and if I am being generous, I would say that 1/2 of them were DRT, most of the the other half involved at least some tracking, and then a small amount that only made it a few steps and I watched them crash. I never noted any difference in meat taste. And besides, MRS Fl-NC generally marinates the meat in something anyway.
     
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  10. <*(((><

    <*(((>< Member

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    Neck shots are common practice for many out west here.
     
  11. Robbins290

    Robbins290 Member

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    I harvested a few deer. All drt’s except one i had to track. All tasted the same. I think the age of the animal had alot more to do with the meat then how it was harvested
     
  12. IdaD

    IdaD Member

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    I'm not a bowhunter but I've got lots of buddies who are and I've never noticed any foul tasting game from them, and those animals routinely go through a longer process of dying than the ones I typically shoot. For the most part I'd consider this an old wives tale.
     
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  13. crestoncowboy

    crestoncowboy Member

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    Ive killed thousands of livestock animals. Many chickens but plenty of larger beast as well. Very rarely are they relaxed. Especially after the first one. I don't believe there is any difference. Ive certainly never grabbed a breast or steak from the freezer and said "damn that one was scared....". Never noticed in wild game either.
     
  14. Fine Figure of a Man

    Fine Figure of a Man Member

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    Incredible :scrutiny:
     
  15. TikkaShooter

    TikkaShooter Member

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    Neck shots were the way to go when I hunted.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/why-scared-animals-taste-worse
    https://www.thealternativedaily.com/one-reason-avoid-factory-farmed-meat/

    A search for "does adrenaline affect meat quality" will yield a lot of answers.
    And, I'm clueless what is the right answer; however, dying quick as compared to dying slow sounds more appealing; if one is going to die.
     
  16. Ks5shooter
    • Contributing Member

    Ks5shooter Contributing Member

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    Adrenaline nah...hang the deer for a week as long as temperature is right....good to go!!!
     
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  17. larryh1108

    larryh1108 Member

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    I was a retail meat cutter in the 70's and 80's for nearly 20 years. I can say that a number of fresh meat (beef and pork) were called "dark cutters".
    The meat in the entire animal was a deep reddish purple where the "regular" meat was the red/pink that we usually see. This meat tasted gamey and was tough. It didn't "bloom" when cut for retail display. This meat was, simply, garbage and we usually cut it up for grinding. I'd guess it was less than 2% of all the meat we handled but it was enough that we saw it on a regular basis.

    Over the 20 years, I asked a lot of different people why we had dark cutters. These were a mixture of old time cutters, meat inspectors and processing plants. No one was able to tell me for sure why we had a percentage of dark cutters. The general consensus was that the animal knew it was going to be killed and released adrenaline into his/her system. I guessed this was mainly a guess that was passed around the trade but no one else could come up with an "official" answer. To this day I believed it to be true. This was true in beef and pork. Pigs and cattle being led to slaughter are supposed to be kept stress free for the best result. I'm sure some knew their fate and were not happy. This is the only thing that made sense since I never got a scientific answer.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
  18. possumbelly220

    possumbelly220 Member

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    I would say the age of the deer has a lot to do with it. Most of the deer that I have killed have all tasted pretty much the same. I shot one old deer and processed it the same as all the others, had to give it to the dogs, we could not eat it. The meat was too strong and gamey.
     
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  19. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    I too tend to think it is more of an animal by animal basis and the odds of getting a bad one have little to do with the circumstances of harvest.

    Anecdotes and correlation are not the same as causation.

    My dad shot a deer once that had a festering sore in one of the back straps maybe from a fight and we also found a 20 ga slug in it of which we could not find an entrance or a path of travel. The meat was fine.
     
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  20. wankerjake

    wankerjake Member

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    Interesting feedback, thank you.

    My guess for the culprit of meat discoloration would be diet. However, it'd just be a guess, like the rest of them fellers.

    I think if adrenaline discolored meat, science would know about it. That's way more easily tested.

    Diet changes the color fish meat. But fish aren't beeves or hogs. I've slaughtered and butchered and eaten at least two domestics (one hog, one sheep) that damn sure knew what was happening. Adrenaline was rolling, for certain, because of what was happening to them physiologically. They both tasted great and not a thing was wrong with either. It's the best hog I've ever eaten in my life in fact.
     
  21. wankerjake

    wankerjake Member

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    Very well said
     
  22. Jack Ryan

    Jack Ryan Member

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    Take out the pump and its not an issue. It can lay there and twitch for a week, if the pump ain't pump'n, adrenaline is not going any where.
     
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  23. larryh1108

    larryh1108 Member

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    In the real world, how long does an adrenaline dump last? 5 to 10 seconds?
    I'm sure there is adrenaline being produced for a lot longer but that initial dump is very short.
    I believe that initial dump is what causes "whatever". Adrenaline can allow a man to lift a car but for how long? I'm sure he has adrenaline pumping for quite a few minutes but that boost to lift a car only lasts for seconds, not minutes.
     
  24. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    i had heard the term before but was unsure of the cause. TAMU says it's caused by stress on the animal:

    https://meat.tamu.edu/2013/01/22/dark-cutting-beef/
     
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  25. larryh1108

    larryh1108 Member

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    Thanks!
    Finally an answer 35 years later!
    Obviously we had no internet back in the day but I finally know.
    So, I learned something new today and it was a question I've had since the 70s.
     
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