Barbs deer processing

Barbs deer processing DEFAULT

Michigan hunters donate extra deer meat to those in need

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — A few days into the Michigan firearm deer season, and hunters are bringing their bucks to deer processing centers where they become steaks, roasts and ground meat.

Even if the hunters and their families and friends do not eat all or any of the meat, it won't go to waste.

Many hunters donate their surplus to charity.

“Lot of people like to hunt, but a lot of people don’t like venison,” explained Bob St. Arnold, a customer at Barb’s Deer Processing in Comstock Park. “So, they donate their meat and give it to the families that need it.”

Last year at Barb's Deer Processing owner Barb Haveman says they helped distribute nearly 2,000 pounds of donated deer meat through Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger. This year she says hunters are just as generous.

"It is just wonderful,” she said. “Our sportsmen are really wonderful, wonderful people. Men and women both.”

"I’m keeping the tenderloins for myself, but I like to donate the meat to help the people who can use that more than I can,” said hunter Steve Lown. “It makes me feel good to be able to help others.”

Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger is a non-profit organization operated by volunteer sportsmen and women. They say they have “assembled a network of processors and charities to help channel wild game donations into the hands of those in need." They say Michigan hunters provided about 100,000 donated deer meat meals last year.

“And what better food to give them than venison burger,” said hunter Matt Stoen. “Can’t get any better than that.”

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Opening day firearm deer season

Barb Haveman, owner of Barb's Deer Processing talks with customer Pete Christopoulos in Comstock Park on opening day Thursday, November 15, 2012. (Cory Olsen |
Cory Olsen |

COMSTOCK PARK, MI -- The thought of cutting skin off a deer and chopping up the meat might not appeal to many women or men, young or old, but as she navigated around buckets full of deer hooves and tails, Barb Haveman, 77, couldn't be happier in the life she leads.

Haveman, of Comstock Park, was introduced to the messier side of animals when she was just a girl. Fascinated by her grandfather's job, she spent hours in his slaughterhouse with him watching him process cows and other farm animals.

"I used to sit there as a little girl and watch him," Haveman said. "It was just kind of neat, I liked it. Of course my mother didn't like me sitting out in the slaughterhouse with grandpa."

Years went by without any inkling to turn her interest into a profession, until one day when she felt shorted on some chops.

"I never thought about butchering until after I got married," Haveman said. "We had a couple pigs and we sent them out to a slaughterhouse in Sparta and I felt that I didn't get all my meat back. So I started right then."

Haveman was forced into her first solo butchering attempt because of a pig's desire to eat anything and everything it sets its eyes on.

"One day one of my pigs broke some glass and went ahead and ate it. It had to be put down, I couldn't just let it die, so I shot the pig and heated some water and from then on we started (processing) pigs."

As time went on, Haveman saw an opportunity to open up to other animals.

"I told my husband (Ed Schoonmaker) 'I'm going to start cutting deer' and he says, 'you are out of your mind.' So I went out and bought myself a saw and a grinder and I still have the same ones right here. The first year I advertised I got seven deer in and I think I charged seven or ten dollars per deer, so you know things were tight back then."

Haveman, also an avid hunter at the time, had made a tradition of traveling to northern Michigan for the opening of deer season. Years into her marriage she returned home one season to find her husband and both daughters working feverishly on all the deer they had taken in as part of the business.

"My husband says to me, 'Barb, you are either going to hunt or do deer, but not both.' So I chose to process deer and I've been doing it ever since."

She's been at it 55 years and times have changed a bit. Haveman now focuses on deer and charges $75 to process, but will still do livestock from time to time if asked. Over the past two seasons she and her six-person processing crew took in more than 1,700 deer.

Formerly Barb Schoonmaker, she remarried after losing her husband, Ed.

"We're newlyweds," she says of her husband, Harvey Haveman. "Been married just four years, it's been great."

What drives her to continue is her love of the hunters and the animals.

"It's something to do, it keeps me healthy," Haveman said. "I'm not walking around here with a cane yet, but I did just have a shoulder replaced. Sometimes I think that maybe I'll give it up, but I just can't. I love it. I love seeing the people come in, they're so nice. I don't think we ever have a bad hunter, they're always so nice. It's a labor of love."

Part of the fuel for her desire comes from the giving nature of the hunters who often donate their kill to local organizations.

"We donate to Lean on Me, Cedar Creek Community Church and North Kent Service Center, those are the main three and we've been keeping busy," Haveman said. "I bet we've have over 50 donations so far this season and we normally do 1,000 pounds of venison to donate each season."

"I'm really proud of that, that's what keeps you going, all those little things. It's just a good feeling."

As word gets into the building that two men have brought in two bucks at the same time, Haveman drops what she's doing and walks out to interact. Clad in a whitetail buck sweatshirt, she smiles largely as she interacts, asking questions about how their hunt went down.

She may be a processor now, but her inner hunter always has a chance to come out.

"I'm always eager to see how big the deer are," Haveman said. "It's in my blood."

Follow Cory Olsen on Twitteror email him at[email protected]

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How to Butcher a Deer at Home Economy Style (Make Your Deer Meat Last All Year) The Bearded Butchers

Deer processors prepare for a busy firearm season

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. -- As Michigan hunters get ready for firearm season to kick off tomorrow, deer meat processors prepare for a busy rest of the year.

Gina Zeigler at Barb's Deer Processing in Comstock Park says November 15th starts the busiest time of year for them. The shop will get up to a thousand deer to process this firearm season.

"Well, right in the beginning we'll probably get 50 deer in tomorrow," she said.

Zeigler says bow season is a warm up, along with deer brought in from car accidents. Leading up to opening day, she says the shop always stocks up on meat packing paper and boxes to meet the demand.

"We've been doing deer for over 60 years here. We got repeat customers. Their kids are coming now," she said.

Zeigler anticipates processing up to a thousand deer over the next month-and-a-half.

"They're getting bigger this year. The deer are for some reason. The body size are getting massive," she said.

To keep up, Zeigler says it's all hands on deck.

"Everything works well here. We got to move 'em in and move 'em out. It works well," she said.

As part of Sportsmen Against Hunger, Zeigler says the shop's already taken in a lot of donated deer for the needy. She says people have donated 1,200 pounds so far this year.

The Department of Natural Resources also has a deer check station set up outside the shop to check for chronic wasting disease (CWD).


Deer processing barbs

Processors making big bucks this deer season

Barb Haveman is smiling more since Michigan’s bow-hunting season began last month.

The namesake behind Barb’s Deer Processing in Comstock Park, north of Grand Rapids, is on pace to process about 1,000 deer into venison this year, up more than 40 percent over 2015.

“Last year was not a good year,” said the 81-year-old entrepreneur, who has made the deer harvest part of her family’s fall tradition for 55 years. “We processed only about 700 deer.” She attributes the low numbers to three consecutive brutal winters that began in 2012.

The 2015 season did see a drop in the number of hunters, but there was a slight increase in harvest from 2014 with 335,000 deer in 2015, according to Chad Stewart, deer management specialist for Michigan’s Department of Natural Services. He predicts more deer this year because of last winter’s milder temperatures.

Haveman said bow season is a warm up to her busy time — the firearms season that started just last week.

That’s when she expects to earn a bigger piece of Michigan’s $2.3 billion hunting industry. She charges $80 a deer, more if the customer wants some of the meat ground or turned into beef jerky, salami and the like. Processing fees range from $50 to $100, according to a survey by The Detroit News.

Two forces may be helping Haveman’s fruitful start. She’s benefiting from today’s time-crunched hunters who want the outdoor experience but may lack the time or skills to process their kill.

Also, the fall’s unseasonable warm temperatures put an end to Mother Nature’s free outdoor freezer, forcing hunters to get their meat butchered locally rather than strapping it to their vehicle and transporting it downstate to a processor closer to home.

“A lot of people think they can hang it to age it, to make it tender, but with the warmer temperatures we’ve had, they brought in spoiled meat,” said D.J. Jarbow, owner of DJ’s Meats in Highland Charter Township.

Jarbow now makes it a point of educating every customer on how to preserve the carcass — two bags of ice in the chest cavity — before riding to his shop.

“I like to train them how to do it properly to prevent that spoiled meat,” Jarbow said. “That’s part of creating loyal customers.”

He made one out of Larry Stopczynski of Milford, who averages a deer every other year on his family’s 35 acres near Mio.

Stopczynski spent $135 last year at DJ’s Meats, having the fur, bones and sinew removed without a saw from a six-point buck, having the venison packaged and labeled and then paying extra for a few specialties, including summer sausage with jalapeno.

“When you drop it off, it reminds me of an assembly line as they start right away by tagging it, skinning it and guaranteeing that you get your own venison, rather than, say, from a deer someone brought in that was roadkill,” Stopczynski said.

Paul Harris of Brownstown found himself processing the first two deer he got at the beginning of bow season in Albion. While he likes to have his butcher friend do it, because of the warm weather he had to quarter the animal, putting it on ice.

He decided to finish the processing at home but it took him 5-8 hours depending on the size of the animal. He also loses a lot of the meat because he’s picky. “I don’t like the fat and the tallow,” Harris said.

“I’d rather spend my time hunting than processing it,” he said.

Ray Lane, owner of Duroc’s Professional Deer Processing in Harrison Township, has noticed more do-it-yourselfers like Harris, who still bring their venison in to grind.

“The bad economy a few years ago hurt some of the people in this blue-collar area, so they learned to do it themselves to save money,” Lane said. “Hunting is a luxury activity because you have to take work off to go, so I see more people trying to save money any way they can so they can still enjoy their hobby.”

Haveman has noticed the trend as well. It happened so much, she bumped her fee up $5 this year to $20 to grind five pounds of burger.

“Let’s hope they’ll understand that our costs are rising, too,” Haveman said.

She wants to keep them smiling.

Rene Wisely is a West Bloomfield-based freelance writer.

Hunt for green

Michigan ranks third in the nation in hunter participation, according to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, the most recent study available.

Average number of days hunting per person: 21

Total expenditures: $2.338 billion

Trip-related expenditures: $271.3 million

Equipment and other: $2.06 billion

Average per hunter: $4,409

Average trip expenditure per day: $25

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report

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Complete Guide on How To Butcher a Deer at Your House - Full Version - By The Bearded Butchers


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