Ohio's Venison Market Destined to Grow

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the Summer 2018 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter

Terry Klick has a message he’d like to share with every grocery store or entity that sells meat: Privately owned deer can be legally bought and harvested for their venison. Ever more in demand these days, venison is lower in overall fat content and cholesterol. It's a healthy, tasty alternative to other meats such as ground beef and steak from cattle farms.

Klick, executive director for Whitetail Deer Farmers of Ohio(WDFO), feels it is worth the time and effort for all types of grocery chains to consider offering venison. ‘Some of them are already offering elk and rabbit and other products, why not deer?“ Klick said. ‘More often than not I've run into people telling me they can't legally buy venison. If it's privately-owned deer, you can.”

WDFO, with its approximate 215 members, promotes the highest ethical standards in the care, handling, and harvesting of whitetail deer. They serve as a collective voice in government issues that affect deer producers, in an effort to enhance the whitetail deer industry. They believe an enhanced venison market and an increased ability to process excess or older deer, would allow more venues to acquire venison. Through the WDFO, venison has been supplied to the Hunger Task Force in the Holmes and Wayne County areas as well as to local health food stores. In addition, various Ohio restaurants have acquired venison to offer on a “Daily Special” basis.

However, the venison supply is understandably having trouble keeping up with the demand. For this reason, marketing to large grocery store chains such as Kroger or Big Bear has been prohibitive up to this point, Kiick, 62, explained. Grateful that Ohio is a deer-friendly state and the WDFO has a good working relationship with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Klick hopes to establish an end-market for excess deer in order to always have an adequate sought-after supply.

“Rules and regulations allowing us to meet the demand for venison through our private deer herds are in place.‘ Klick said. “However, until now we have not had the abundance of deer to take advantage of them. We hope through educating the public about the differences between wild and domestic herds that we will begin to utilize our ability on a regular basis.”

Klick, an outdoor and deer enthusiast, maintained a deer farm in Navarre, Ohio for years that today is operated by his son. Klick still assists him with the farm when necessary and has had extensive experience working in state and federal butcher facilities. He understands the intricacies involved in providing quality, accessible products to both large and small markets.

“Our industry needs to continue to be concerned about the overall health of deer in the State of Ohio,” Klick said. “We should work together to increase our end-market that allows all interested parties to benefit from consuming venison. By working not individually but together and promoting our cause, we will all be better off for it.“

Terry Klick: wdfoklick@gmail.com