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Meat and Poultry Inspection Division

a meat and poultry inspector inspecting hog viscera


(Information based on handout from the Wisconsin's Food Safety Division)

Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD is a fatal, progressive neurological disease that attacks white tail deer, black tail deer, mule deer, and elk. The most recent scientific information indicates that a sub-microscopic agent called a Prion causes this type of disease. These Prions concentrate primarily where there is a lot of nervous tissue -- brain, spinal cord and eyes. It is also found in the lymph nodes and spleen. Prions have not been found in muscle tissue (meat). According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence that this disease (CWD) is transmissible to humans.

The North Carolina Meat and Poultry Inspection Service recommends removal of tissues/organs containing large amounts of Prions. As mentioned previously, these tissues are brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes. Follow the common sense precautions mentioned below.


  • General Precautions:
    • Do not eat the eyes, brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of any deer.
    • Do not eat any part of a deer that appears sick.
  • Field Dressing
    • Wear rubber or latex gloves.
    • Minimize contact with the brain, spinal cord, spleen and lymph nodes (lumps of tissue next to organs or in fat and membranes) as you work.
    • Do not use household knives or utensils.
    • Remove all internal organs.
    • Clean knives and equipment of residue and disinfect with a 50/50 solution of household chlorine bleach and water. Wipe down counters and let them dry; soak knives for 1 hour.
  • Cutting and Processing
    • Wear rubber or latex gloves.
    • Minimize handling brain or spinal tissues. If removing antlers, use a saw designated for that purpose only, and dispose of the blade.
    • Do not cut through the spinal column except to remove the head. Use a knife designated only for this purpose.
    • Bone out the meat from the deer and remove all fat and connective tissue (the web-like membranes attached to the meat). This will also remove lymph nodes.
    • Dispose of hide, brain and spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils, bones, and head in a landfill or by other means available in your area.
    • Thoroughly clean and sanitize equipment and work areas after processing with a diluted bleach solution.
    • Keep meat and trimmings from each dear separate.

  • Never eat meat from a deer that looks sick.
  • Never eat a deer's: (see diagram)
    • Brain
    • Eyeballs
    • Spinal Cord
    • Spleen
    • Lymph Nodes
    • Small Intestines
  • To be sure you've removed all of the parts listed above:
    • Gut the deer
    • Remove the head
    • Cut meat from the bone with a knife; don't cut through bones
    • Remove all fat, membranes and cords from the meat


There are some parts of the deer you should never eat, even if the animal looks healthy. These parts are listed above. They are mostly nervous system tissues, where Prions concentrate. Prions, which cause CWD, have not been found in muscle tissue (meat).

You can easily find the brain, eyeballs, and spinal cord. The spleen is an internal organ in the animal's midsection. Lymph nodes are lumps or knobs of tissue. Some are next to internal organs. Others are embedded in fat and membranes attached to muscles.

You don't need to know exactly where the spleen and lymph nodes are, because normal field dressing and trimming fat from meat will remove them. Some main locations of lymph nodes are in the diagram attached to this page.



NCDA&CS - Meat and Poultry Inspection Division, W. Alan Wade, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street , Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3180; FAX: (919) 715-0246;TA Office: (919) 707-3195