Lead Contamination in Ground Venison from Shotgun-Harvested White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Illinois

Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 2020 Sep;105(3):366-371. doi: 10.1007/s00128-020-02967-x. Epub 2020 Aug 25.


Ground venison packets from shotgun- and archery-harvested White-tailed Deer in Illinois in 2013 and 2014 were analyzed for metal contamination. Radiographs indicated that 48% of 27 ground venison packets from 10 shotgun-harvested deer contained metal fragments, while none of the 15 packets from three archery-harvested deer contained fragments. ICP-MS analysis verified that all metal fragments from seven of the venison samples from shotgun-harvested deer were composed of lead, with average concentrations from 1.04 to 8.42 μg g-1, dry weight. A single serving of ground venison containing one of these metal fragments embedded in it would be predicted to have a lead concentration ranging from 6.4 to 51.8 μg g-1. Sixty percent of 20 commercial meat processing plants surveyed by phone in 2018 and 2019 indicated that they mixed venison from multiple deer when preparing ground venison products. However, our results do not show any cross-contamination in archery-harvested ground venison processed prior to the firearm hunting seasons.

Keywords: Lead contamination; Shotgun; Slugs; White-tailed deer.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Deer / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Illinois
  • Lead / analysis
  • Lead / metabolism*
  • Meat / analysis*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead