Is Venison Safe During Pregnancy? Risks + Benefits

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Venison is a delicious lean protein source. Should pregnant women be cautious about eating it?

It is safe to eat venison when pregnant if it’s cooked to the safe internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C) for meat, 160°F (71.1°C) for ground venison and sausages, and 165°F (73.9°C) for others.

During pregnancy, avoid venison that is hunted and killed in the wild. It is also recommended to cook venison at least medium-well just to be on the safe side.

Venison is regarded as a good choice of lean meat. Read on to learn how to consume it safely during your pregnancy!

Is Venison Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Venison is safe during pregnancy as long as it’s cooked to a safe internal temperature. Moreover, it shouldn’t come from deer hunted in the wild.

Venison is the meat from animals that have antlers, with deer being the most common source. In the U.K., venison is deer meat. In the U.S., it can come from deer, moose, reindeer, elk, antelope, or caribou.

The younger the animal, the more tender the meat will be (source: BBC Good Food). Additionally, the strong taste of venison varies, depending on what the animal has been fed.

Meat from animals fed with plant ingredients from nature, like sage or acorns, tends to give off a strong gamey flavor, while meat sourced from animals fed with corn will taste milder (source: University of Minnesota Extension).

Safe Cooking Temperatures for Venison During Pregnancy

Like beef, the minimum internal temperature for venison meat is 145°F (62.8°C) which is considered medium rare, and 160°F (71.1°C) for ground venison

For stews, soups, stews, casseroles, and leftovers, the safe temperature is 165°F (73.9°C) (source: University of Minnesota Extension).

For venison sausage, the safe minimum cooking temperature is 160°F (71.1°C) (source: University of Minnesota Extension).

To achieve these temperatures, it is best to use a food thermometer when cooking at home. If ordering from a restaurant, ask to have your venison cooked to at least medium rare in order to reach the appropriate temperatures stated above. 

freshly roasted venison with rosemary and pepper on a cutting board

Venison has been linked to Toxoplasma gondii, Sarcocystis truncata, Hepatitis E virus, and Mycobacterium bovis in raw or undercooked meat. All of these bacteria and viruses can cause food poisoning.

It’s recommended to cook venison to at least medium well to kill any pathogens (sources: Clinical Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Journal of Medical Virology, FDA).

Here are some different kinds of venison cuts and how you can prepare them at the recommended temperatures or higher:

CutCooking Method
Rib (chops)Oven roasted, broiled, fried
Loin (chops)Oven roasted, broiled, fried
ShoulderPot roasted
ShankStewed, made into sausage
RumpStewed, pot roasted
RoundPot roasted, Swiss steak
Flank/breastStewed, made into sausage
NeckStewed, made into sausage

(source: University of Minnesota Extension: Cooking venison for flavor and safety).

Lead Shot Safety in Venison

Deer meat that came from wildlife hunting may not be safe. This is because the animals killed with ammunition might contain lead. Consumption of this meat increases the risk of lead ingestion.

It is not safe to consume lead during pregnancy. When a person is exposed to lead for a long time, any lead that is stored in his or her bones will be discharged into the blood. Levels can rise during pregnancy, affecting the unborn baby.

Lead can increase the baby’s risk for behavioral or learning issues, premature birth, and low birth weight. It can also negatively affect the baby’s major organs and increase the risk of miscarriage (source: CDC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention). 

According to a study, thirty eviscerated white tail deer carcasses killed with lead bullets showed large-scale metal fragment dispersion. 

The carcasses were then processed as ground meat and observed through fluoroscopy. The process showed that 80% of the carcasses contained lead.

The venison was fed to pigs, and their blood tests revealed significant levels of bioavailable lead (source: Lead Bullet Fragments in Venison from Rifle-Killed Deer: Potential for Human Dietary Exposure). 

It is also not safe to eat organs from antlered animals shot in the wild, since the organs can contain high amounts of lead (source: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services).   

Both farmed and wild roe deer meat are available to purchase in stores all year long (source: BBC Good Food).

The Benefits of Venison for Pregnant Women

Venison is generally lean and is also rich in B vitamins, iron, zinc, and protein, all of which are essential during pregnancy. It is a good meat choice because it has low saturated fat and cholesterol (source: PennState Extension: Venison, Is It For You?)

grilled venison sausage on a white plate with lettuce

When you’re pregnant, your energy requirements increase. B vitamins work by producing and releasing energy in the cells so energy can be derived from carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Pregnant women are also susceptible to iron deficiency. Iron is important because it helps prevent preterm birth, and strengthens maternal functions such as fighting infections. It also prevents abnormal psychomotor and cognitive functions in the fetus.

A deficiency in zinc is linked to decreased immunity, long labor, pre-term or post-term birth issues, low birth weight, intrauterine problems, and hypertension.

Protein is crucial during pregnancy and helps maintain maternal homeostasis so the mother’s body can meet the increasing demands of the growing baby (source: Nutrients).  

There’s no need to avoid venison during pregnancy. In fact, it is a healthy choice of lean meat, provided it’s prepared well and doesn’t come from antlered animals shot in the wild.