Is venison liver safe to eat? (Main risks)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Is venison liver safe to eat?”. We will also address the risks of venison liver and how to use it.

Is venison liver safe to eat?

Yes, venison liver is generally safe to eat as long as it hasn’t been contaminated. Among various types of game meat, venison liver stands out for its robust flavor and texture reminiscent of lamb’s liver. Recipes intended for lamb’s liver can be adapted for venison liver.

Livers from various game animals, whether it’s pheasant, quail, venison, or hare, can all be utilized in culinary preparations. Venison liver shares similarities with the livers of domestic rabbits or lambs and can be utilized in much the same manner. (1)

What is the nutritional profile of venison liver?

A typical 100g of venison liver

Typical values Per 100g
Energy 195 kcal
Fat 5.7g
Carbohydrate 6.0g
Fibre 0.5g
Protein 29.6g
Salt 0.20g
Iron 15mg

Livers from a variety of animals are abundant sources of essential minerals, including easily absorbed iron (Fe), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and tin (Sn). They are also notably rich in folic acid, vitamins A, B2, B12, and C, along with niacin, and pantothenic acid, surpassing the content of these nutrients in most plant-based foods.

Recommended intake levels for human consumption vary depending on age and gender, typically ranging from 100 to 250 grams of animal liver per week. (2)

What are the risks of venison liver?

Venison’s liver may harbor unwanted substances, particularly in free-living animals. The presence of elevated levels of toxic elements in the tissues of animals like venison can pose a significant health risk to humans. Elements such as lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and arsenic (As) exhibit similar toxic effects, and their combined exposure can exacerbate these effects.

These elements tend to accumulate in the body, potentially leading to kidney and cardiovascular damage, mental impairment, skeletal changes, and an increased risk of cancer. 

Another common issue with deer liver is the potential presence of liver flukes. Liver flukes are worm-like parasites that inhabit the liver of deer, residing in small cavities within the organ. Identifying these flukes can be challenging as they blend in with the liver’s color.

While these flukes result in death in venison and have been linked to reductions in the populations of various other wild hosts, they do not pose a threat to humans. Nevertheless, the liver-infected liver should not be consumed. (3, 4)

What factors affect the concentration of heavy metals in venison liver?

The concentration of heavy metals in free-living animals like venison depends on various factors, including their habitat, soil characteristics, plant physiology, animal behavior and diet, and proximity to industrial sources. These elements are typically absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and respiratory system.

The liver serves as a filter, acting as a chemical shield that detoxifies the body by eliminating ingested toxins, metabolic byproducts, or absorbed harmful substances. As a result, these toxic elements often have higher concentrations in the liver.  (2, 3)

How to use venison liver?

Venison liver has several uses, such as pates and salads or simply fried in a pan, they can also be used to thicken certain sauces. When choosing livers, they should always be bright and firm – old livers look dull and lifeless. (1)

What is venison liver’s shelf life?

Venison liver shelf life is 4 to 6 days after the slaughter, regardless of storage conditions. Leading causes of spoilage include microbial growth, mainly involving Pseudomonas spp. and Enterobacteriaceae, as well as autolytic activities. Venison liver and other edible offals are highly perishable due to their rich nutrient content, which readily fuels microbial growth.

Moreover, these items are often treated as waste, leading to suboptimal handling, unfavorable hygiene conditions, and inadequate temperature control, all of which can facilitate microbial contamination and growth. (5)

How to safely consume venison liver?

To safely consume venison liver it is important to attest to its quality to avoid the risk of contamination. Farm animal liver usually has much lower amounts of toxic metals and contaminants, as none of these elements usually exceed the allowed limits.

The consumption of the liver (preferably from farm animals) by children should be limited to once weekly while adults can consume it more often.  Wild venison liver should be consumed less often to avoid the risk of intoxication from heavy metals. (2)


In this brief guide, we answered the question “Is venison liver safe to eat?”. We also addressed the risks of venison liver and how to use it.

In my perspective as a food scientist venison liver is safe to eat. It is possible to buy venison liver from retail with high standards for human consumption that are very safe to eat. For wild animals as long as the animal is healthy and the area where it lives is not contaminated with heavy metals the liver will be safe to eat. 

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