Although wild fallow deer (Dama dama) are abundant in South Africa, they remain overlooked as a potential protein source and little is known about their carcass production potential. Our study aimed to determine the carcass characteristics, meat yields and offal contributions of fallow deer harvested in South Africa, as well as the effect of sex thereupon. Slaughter weights, warm carcass weights and cold carcass weights were higher in male (n = 8) fallow deer versus females (n = 14), and in pregnant females (n = 5) compared to non-pregnant females (n = 9). Similarly, dressing percentages were higher in males (62%) than females (59%), but were comparable to, or surpassed, those of other African game species and domestic livestock. Consumable offal (excluding stomach and intestines) contributed 10% and 9% to the slaughter weights of males and females, respectively, with some significant sex and pregnancy effects on certain offal components. The individual weights of seven muscles (longissimus thoracis et lumborum, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus, psoas major ) did not differ between males and females. However, male fallow deer had significantly higher total meat and bone weights than females even though no differences were observed for the meat-to-bone ratios between males and females. These baseline data should provide the impetus for increased utilization of fallow deer by the South African game meat industry and strengthen the contribution of these animals to domestic food security.
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