Summer sausage is tasty, maggots and all

I grew up in a deer hunting family, and although my own deer hunting career started and ended when I was 13, I was so used to eating venison that beef tasted weird. I still remember one deer my family butchered at home, and my brother chased me around the house with an eyeball. We packaged and marked the cuts, but they stayed in our family freezer. Perhaps we had some guests over for dinner or gave some to a friend at church, but if anyone got sick, it was us.

In Omaha, apparently, things are run differently. Deer processor and poacher extraordinaire Jack McClanahan was finally put out of the summer sausage business.

According to the Omaha World-Herald McClanahan processed and sold tons of tainted summer sausage, much of it from poached deer. McClanahan told federal undercover agents that he sometimes shot deer at night with a rifle from the bathroom window of his home in Omaha’s Ponca Hills and then would retrieve the carcasses in the morning. He baited the deer with corn, used a spotlight to blind them, and then shot.

McClanahan is a retired butcher who sold summer sausage in 5-pound casings at $3.50 a pound. He also made salami, jerky and snack sticks, and authorities estimated annual production at about 10,000 pounds.

Mark Webb, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, said mouse droppings, maggots, deer carcasses, dried blood, deer hair and other contaminants littered the commercial-grade meat processing equipment that filled McClanahan’s three-car garage. There was no running water for cleaning. When wildlife agents seized the equipment and cleaned it with hot water and soap at a carwash, they discovered two lead bullets the size of a man’s thumb lodged in the grinder. The blade had been shaving lead into the meat.

The butcher-poacher was fined $10,000 and sentenced to three years of probation Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

My family and most deer hunters I have known have a strong conservationist ethic. I was raised to respect wildlife and have a deep appreciation for nature. McClanahan, and other poachers, are appalling, but making humans sick and putting their lives at risk with filthy processing conditions is even more disgusting.