Louisiana officials are considering solutions after state health inspectors destroyed 1,600 lbs of deer meat donated by hunters to a local homeless shelter.
Rev. Henry Martin, executive director of the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission, which provides food and shelter for the homeless in Northwest Louisiana, told The Daily Caller that the organization had been serving deer meat donated by area hunters for decades and, to his knowledge, nothing like this had ever happened before.
“There was no need for this to happen — we’ve got hungry people who need meals. That very day, we have about 230 people on average in our system, and you multiply that by three meals a day, times 365 days a year, you’re going to get well over 200,000 meals,” he said, explaining that the charity needs as much food as it can get.
“We want to prevent this,” he added. “The venison is healthy, it is low in cholesterol, high in protein, low in fat. And it is was processed; it is good meat; and people are hungry, so I was really saddened that day.”
According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the agency received a complaint that deer meat was being served at the mission. State regulations bar food establishments from serving hunted deer meat. .
In late January, the department’s health inspectors investigated the facility, discovered the deer meat — which had been appropriately processed at an area slaughterhouse — and destroyed it in a dumpster by dousing it in bleach so that animals would not eat it.
“Our health inspectors investigated promptly and discovered Rescue Mission did have deer meat obtained from hunters, and deer meat is not permitted to be served in a shelter, restaurant or any other public eating establishment in Louisiana,” the department wrote in a statement posted on their Facebook page. “Although the meat was processed at a slaughterhouse (Bellevue) that is permitted by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture to prepare and commercially distribute meat obtained from approved farms, deer are not an approved meat source to be distributed commercially.”
The Louisiana chapter of Hunters for the Hungry — which is endorsed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries on its website — donated the meat through the area processing facility.
“While we applaud the good intentions of the hunters who donated this meat, we must protect the people who eat at Rescue Mission, and we cannot allow a potentially serious health threat to endanger the public,” the health department added in their statement. “The State Sanitary Code laws exist to protect all residents of our state, and while sometimes these laws may not be popular, they allow us to ensure the public’s health and safety, and must be followed.”
Martin credited media coverage and area outrage for getting local officials to take notice and work on solutions.
On Monday, the mission hosted a press conference about the incident. KTSB in Louisiana, which first broke the deer-meat destruction story, reported that the media event was attended by state Rep. Jeff Thompson, and representatives from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
“Together, we’re going to craft legislation that will permit the donation of deer and other proteins that can be processed and donated to facilities just like this,” Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said, according to KTSB.
KTSB noted that the mission does not receive any taxpayer money, and it is entirely run off of donations.
Martin added that since this has happened, the community has rallied around the charity, including a $750 donation from the Louisiana Cattleman’s Association and over a thousand pounds of chicken from Foster’s Farms.