Charges Re-Filed Against Restaurant Owners Accused Of Dumpster-Diving For Deer Heads

Image courtesy of John Northrup

Preventing food waste is good, but not to the point of dumpster-diving for deer brains at a wild game butcher. The former owners of a Chinese restaurant in Pennsylvania are accused of dealing in illegal deer meat, at least some of which came from the trash at butchers that process deer for hunters.

PennLive.com reports that back in 2015, the state Game Commission found hundreds of pounds of deer parts at the restaurant, which included heads, brains, and parts that the Game Commission couldn’t identify offhand. The couple who owned the restaurant ultimately pleaded guilty to restaurant violations and paid a fine. They no longer own the restaurant, which is still open.

In Pennsylvania, restaurants are allowed to serve venison, but only from animals raised on commercial farms. Butchers process wild deer for the hunters who killed them, but those hunters are only able to keep and eat the meat themselves, or give it away. It’s illegal to buy, sell, or barter meat from wild animals.

“No one is permitted to sell the meat or other edible parts from harvested game,” a spokesman from the state’s Game Commission explained to PennLive when the restaurant owners were originally charged, and hundreds of pounds of deer parts confiscated from their restaurant. “When hunters pay at the processor, they’re paying for their deer or a deer they’ve been given to be butchered and/or turned into some processed product.”

The couple denied that they were planning to serve venison to customers, and claimed that they were using bones obtained from local butchers to make soup for their own meals, not to be sold to the public. The Game Commission alleges that they got these deer parts from dumpsters outside of local butchers, and had permission to take at least some of the parts.

Yet one of the restaurant owners was charged with selling items from the deer parts stash out of a van in New York’s Chinatown. She pleaded guilty to those charges and paid a fine of $2,250, but the charges related to trafficking in deer parts in Pennsylvania hadn’t yet been resolved.