From the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
-- West Virginia wants to recruit current and new certified meat processors to help process venison for the Hunters Helping the Hungry program which allows legally taken white-tailed deer to be processed to feed the state’s neediest citizens.
“The HHH Program has been very successful because of hunter generosity and fundraising efforts like the Governor’s One-Shot Hunt, but we are seeing fewer certified processors interested in participating,” said HHH Program Coordinator Jerry Westfall.
The HHH relies on only processors who hold licenses as a custom or commercial processor with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) Meat and Poultry Inspection Division, or a certified commercial processor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service. “The HHH Program decided many years ago to rely on certified processors with the WVDA or the USDA to ensure the highest quality meat processing,” Westfall said.
“Because the program relies upon certified processors to continue, we’re encouraging all those certified processors who previously participated to return to the HHH program or to become certified if possible. As an incentive, we’ll raise the reimbursement rate for processors from $1.30 per pound to $1.45 per pound in November. Considering a processed deer averages about 35 1/2 pounds, a certified processor would be reimbursed about $52. That is close to or slightly above the typical deer processing fee in many parts of West Virginia,” Westfall said.
Processors would also be listed in the HHH brochures that are displayed in hundreds of check stations and stores across the state. Officials hope the increased reimbursement, the added publicity and the fact that a processor will be doing charitable work will be the incentive needed to recruit more processors.
Because the certification process with WVDA or USDA can be involved and possibly lengthy, the DNR encourage interested processors to contact these agencies and begin the certification process right away to be part of the 2010 HHH Program season. To receive a custom or a commercial processing license through the WVDA, refer to their website at www.wvagriculture.org/Division_Webpages/meat_poultry.html, or call Dr. Robert Pitts at (304) 558-2206.
For a certified commercial processing license through the USDA, required for interstate transport, refer to the website at www.fsis.usda.gov or call Dr. Nader Ismial at (304)716-6172.
For more information on the HHH Program, go to the HHH website at www.wvdnr.gov/Hunting/HHH.shtm or call Program Coordinator Jerry Westfall at (304)558-2771 or e-mail to Jerry.A.Westfall@wv.gov.