Wild Game Processing
Venison brats ready for the grill; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

Wild Game Processing Gear Review: Making Meat With MEAT!

It’s not often you get to butcher whole animals with a ton of different wild game processing gear on site. And MEAT! made it both intuitive and easy.

Like air or water, food is — at its most basic — a human necessity. But it’s also an art form, a realm of craft, and a pursuit that can be as academic as you’d like it to be.

For me, food is not only these three things — it’s also a physical pursuit. As a hunter, I am intimately connected to what I’d call “making meat” or what most hunters would refer to as “filling the freezer.” Wild game processing is an arduous, time-consuming, and ever-evolving process.

And I’m also, by nature and profession, an attentive consumer both of meat and products. I prefer to eat meat that I have a relationship to, and I prefer to use products that will take good care of the meat that I’ve procured.

Funny enough, a company named MEAT! makes products for, you guessed it, processing meat. I got the chance to use a plethora of their amazing gear in Texas. And it was a fun, flawless, and educational process.

In short: I got the chance to try a lot of MEAT! products. And I processed a ton of meat using this equipment. Below is both a brand overview and a review of what it currently offers direct-to-consumer, from meat grinders to vacuum sealers, and everything in between.

Wild Game Processing Gear From MEAT!

MEAT! is not only its own sentence; it’s also a brand that focuses solely on helping normal people level up their meat processing, from gear for your kitchen to educational material to cutting out the middlemen with a direct-to-consumer business model.

This last piece? It keeps money in your pocket while maximizing what you’re getting from the brand’s side. The folks at MEAT! want to be your go-to source for everything related to processing what you bring home from the field, whether it’s a whitetail deer, a trophy elk, or a homebred lamb.

And the process is its clear focus. Processing, preparing, and preserving are the thematic drivers for the gear MEAT! puts in your kitchen. Let’s get into some of its offerings.

Grinders: All About Horsepower

learn how to hunt
MEAT! grinders, hard at work; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

If you’ve ever used a crappy meat grinder, the thought of grinding meat can feel nearly traumatic. As someone who has put my purchasing power into a sub-par grinder, I’ll tell you that it’s worth shelling out a bit more cash for a machine that will meet you more than halfway.

The MEAT! grinders are the best I’ve tried. And it makes sense: they’ve got horsepower behind them. The two grinders I used had 1 and 1.5 horsepower, respectively. And each made grinding an easy-to-do, easy-to-clean experience.

MEAT! offers five grinders as small as 500 watts ($119) up to 1.5 horsepower ($699). The major difference here is how many pounds per minute you can move through the grinders, from 4 pounds per minute with the 500-watt machine up to 18 pounds per minute with 1.5 horsepower.

Each grinder has safety features built in to protect fingers, and even the most affordable grinder features heavy-duty construction and multiple plates designed to last. If you’re a new hunter, an apartment dweller, or a rare grinder, don’t overlook the more compact options for wild game processing.

MEAT! Mixers, Sausage Stuffers for Wild Game

Wild Game Processing
(Photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

Hand-Cranked Mixers

Once the meat is ground, you’ve got a few choices. You might choose to make sausage or bag up the burger. If you opt for the former, MEAT! has the gear for that as well.

Two hand-cranked meat mixers (mostly) take the biceps out of meat mixing. The only real difference between the two is capacity: one mixes up to 20 pounds ($180), the other 50 ($350). I’d say the 20-pound mixer is appropriate for the great majority of us — unless you’re the kind of sausage party-thrower who goes real big.

That said, the hand-cranked machines are simple to use. You want to mix sausage until it’s a bit tacky and the proteins are sufficiently stretchy; this will help with texture.

Pro tip: Table clamps make mixing a lot easier. But they don’t come with the mixers. I highly recommend purchasing one or two to make this process easier.

Stuffing the Sausage

The stuffers, on the other hand, take a bit of getting used to for newbies. These are also available in two options: 5 pounds ($160) and 15 pounds ($300). It’s not that they’re difficult to use; it’s that making sausage requires a smidge of finesse.

You’ll alternate hand cranking with guiding the sausage into the casing at a rate that, well, allows you to keep up. This is where a bit of finagling comes in. But it’s a fun kind of finagling. And it can be a bit easier with two people, just for clarity.

MEAT! made a great video (above) that covers both mixers and stuffers, and it’s super helpful in learning how to make sausage easily and effectively.

Vacuum Sealers

MEAT! Chamber vacuum

Bagging It Up

I’ll be honest; I didn’t own a vacuum sealer up until last year. I simply wrapped meat in plastic cling wrap and freezer wrap, and I stuck it in the freezer with no issue. But, it’s a hell of a time suck to do it correctly. So to take some of the suck out of that process, I’m putting some actual suck back into it.

Enter MEAT! vacuum sealers. Chamber sealers are super cool, and if you have the space and need for one, MEAT! has two available.

One is offered with an oilless pump for $700; this cuts down on maintenance. And the other Chamber Vacuum Sealer ($800) requires a bit more maintenance but will likely last forever if maintained properly.

MEAT! also offers three external vacuum sealers. The 16″ External Vacuum Sealer ($300) tops the list with a commercial-grade sealing process, and it’s capable of sealing both dry and wet food.

Next, the Pro External Vacuum Sealer ($180) features a 14-inch sealing strip as well as an adjustable seal time and vacuum. The base-level sealer ($80) is a bit smaller at 12 inches, but like all MEAT! gear, it boasts a lot of durability and commercial-grade process for the long haul.

Chamber or External?

I used both chamber sealers and a few of the external sealers. The chambers are obviously slick. It’s fun to watch, and they both do a great job on most cuts. They also have the benefit of being able to seal wet items, like a piece of meat in a marinade or even something like chili or stew.

The issue with having just a chamber sealer is that if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t get sealed. So for larger, bone-in cuts, like back hams, racks of ribs, shanks, and blade roasts, an external sealer is necessary.

And if you’re not commercially processing, it’s likely the only sealer you need. The wider seal strip is helpful if you do like to keep larger cuts of meat intact, or if you’re hunting bigger creatures like elk and moose.

The Nerdiest Way to Cook Meat: Sous Vide

Wild Game Processing
MEAT! Sous Vide 10 in action, with salmon in the works; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

The sous vide trend has been around the hunting world for a while. Personally, I think it’s pretty nerdy in a good way. It feels weird to give meat a warm bath, but essentially this is what you’re doing. (Hold the soap plz!) And having a vacuum sealer on hand makes this process a bit easier, as the meat simply stays in the vacuum-sealed bag for the duration of the cooking time.

MEAT! boasts two sous vides: the Sous Vide 4 ($130) and the Sous Vide 10 ($200). The numbers refer to the amount of water each machine can warm, 4 and 10 gallons, respectively.

For the majority of home cooks, the Sous Vide 4 is perfect. It heats water from 41 to 194 degrees, allowing meat to cook evenly and slowly in a perfectly controlled environment. Hashtag nerdy. But also really cool.

As part of our butchering education, we used sous vide to make scrapple and salmon. Each cooked in the warm water for a determined amount of time, and they both turned out to be unbelievably good.

If you’re kind of a kitchen nerd who loves to play with fun stuff, a sous vide is absolutely for you.

Dehydrators, Accessories, and More From MEAT!

MEAT! Dehydrator

In addition to all this cool stuff, MEAT! also offers a 10-tray dehydrator ($280) as well as a six-tray dehydrator ($130). I’m not much of a jerky gal, but I love having a dehydrator on hand for fruits, veggies, dog treats, backpacking meals, and more.

And if you are a jerky person, MEAT! also has a jerky gun ($36) for a more mixed take on the treat.

Accessories abound, from a meat saw to scales to freezer bags and even to apparel, MEAT! covers a lot of its bases. And expect more from the brand in this area soon, as the folks at MEAT! continue to double down on the wild game processing lifestyle.

Final Thoughts: Wild Game Processing With MEAT!

Obviously, I had some fun both working with MEAT!’s equipment and playing with words throughout this review. But really, MEAT! is an impressive company with passionate folks who want to better the contents of your freezer from the field to the table.

Part of the betterment involves leveling up our wild game processing gear as we go. I imagine that MEAT!’s products will be sticking with me through a lot of my future freezer hauls, and I expect that they will perform up to snuff.

Because of MEAT!’s direct-to-consumer focus, it also has an awesome customer service crew that will help you figure out and replace things if anything goes wrong.

I love a company that invests in both products and people. MEAT! is doing just that.

I particularly like that in nearly every bracket of offering, it makes an entry-level yet commercial-grade product that most anyone can afford for wild game processing or just processing meat from the butcher. That, to me, is the ultimate pinnacle of really respecting a brand’s entire community.

And since my trip to Texas, I’ve chowed down on meals made thanks to this gear. It has yet to disappoint. Impressive. If you’re looking to go deeper into processing, MEAT! is a helluva brand to start with.

Nicole Qualtieri
By

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.