When can babies eat venison?
Venison may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. At this stage in their lives, babies (and especially breastfed babies) need lots of B-vitamins, iron, protein, and zinc on a regular basis. Venison is a terrific source of these essential nutrients.
Background and origins of venison
In hunting families, venison is synonymous with meat from a deer, though technically the word means any meat from the Cervidae family, which includes antelope and elk. These are game animals, meaning they are traditionally hunted in the wild, but today there are deer and elk farms that are raising domesticated breeds to market commercially.
Is venison healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Precise nutritional value depends on the origin of the meat (commercially raised on a farm or hunted in the wild) but generally speaking, venison is an excellent alternative to beef. It’s leaner, it’s packed with amino acids, and it contains a higher amount of protein and micronutrients that your baby needs to thrive: vitamin B12 and other B-vitamins, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc. Just be sure to read the label as ground venison is often combined with fattier meats, such as pork.
Is venison a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Meat is a common choking hazard, and must be prepared in an age-appropriate way (check out our suggestions) for your baby.
Is venison a common allergen?
No. Venison is not a common food allergen, though in theory, one could be allergic to any food. When introducing a new food for the first time, serve a small quantity and watch closely as your baby eats to monitor for any signs of a reaction.
How do you prepare venison for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 8 months old: Try mixing ground venison into an easy-to-scoop food such as mashed potatoes (making sure there are no big pieces of venison stuck together), or serve well-done strips of meat about the size of two adult fingers held together. Ironically at this age, the bigger and more resistive the food, the easier and safer it is for your baby to consume. Surprisingly your baby can consume a decent amount of nutrients just by sucking on the meat. If your baby is able to tear off pieces of the meat while munching, move on to ground patties.
8 to 12 months old: Serve ground venison in the form of a patty alongside applesauce or yogurt, which will add moisture and aid swallowing. If a too-big piece of meat breaks off in your baby’s mouth, try not to intervene and instead coach your baby to spit out the meat by dramatically sticking out your own tongue and saying “blaah” repeatedly.
12 to 18 months old: Continue with ground venison patties on top of applesauce, mayonnaise, or yogurt to aid swallowing, or try serving minced or shredded venison steak. You may also try serving cooked ground or minced venison on its own or mixed into a dish of grated cauliflower, lentils, or rice.
18 to 24 months old: Continue serving ground venison patties or minced venison mixed into other food. At this stage, you may also try serving small, razor-thin pieces of venison steak on its own to encourage chewing practice. Slowly increase the thickness of the slices as your toddler develops stronger eating skills.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Venison is a lean meat, which means it cooks and dries out faster than fattier alternatives. Trap in the moisture by searing venison in a hot cast iron pan and letting the meat rest on a cutting board before slicing.
Recipe: Venison Burgers with Blackberry Sauce
- Ground venison
- Olive oil
- Shallot or onion
- Garlic clove
- Corn starch
- Lemon juice
- If your ground venison is frozen, defrost a 1-lb package on a plate in your refrigerator (never on the counter) for several hours or overnight.
- Finely chop 1 shallot or ½ onion. Sauté with a splash of olive oil in a skillet on medium low heat. While the onion is cooking, finely chop 1 clove of garlic and add it to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- While the onions are cooking, prepare the blackberry sauce: combine a handful of berries with a splash of water in a small saucepan. Cover and cook on medium heat until the blackberries soften.
- While the berries are warming, combine 1 spoonful each of lemon juice and corn starch in a small bowl and mix well to form a slurry. Add to the berries, then bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and gently simmer until the sauce thickens. Mash any remaining berries with a fork or a potato masher, or purée in a blender for a smoother sauce. Turn off the heat and let cool while you cook the venison patties.
- Place 1 pound of ground venison in a bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic and set the skillet aside for later use. Mix the meat, onion, and garlic together with your hands. It’s not necessary, but at this stage, you could also add an egg and some breadcrumbs for extra flavor. For older babies, try adding spices, such as coriander or cumin (or both!)
- Form the meat mixture into small patties. Cook in the skillet over medium heat. For faster cooking, cover the skillet while the patties are cooking.
- After a few minutes, flip the patties. To test for readiness, cut a patty in half and make sure it’s well done, with no pink meat inside. Let cool. Set aside a couple patties for your baby’s meal, and store the rest in a sealed container in the freezer for easy reheating at future mealtimes. Serve the patties on top of the blackberry sauce. Enjoy the taste (and the mess, too!)
Venison’s gamey flavor tastes delicious with tart berries such as blackberries, blueberries, currants, and huckleberries, as well as juniper, a spice made from juniper berries that lends an evergreen flavor. Venison can be easily substituted for ground beef in stews and chilis, and pairs well with beans, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, root vegetables, wild rice, and a wide range of herbs, such as mint, rosemary, and sage. Great spice combinations include Moroccan and Mexican spice blends.