Venison Meltdown: The Disaster of Freezer Failure


“What’s that smell?” my wife April asked when we returned home from a week out-of-town.

I answered that I thought it was the trash. Our garbage service picks up on Wednesday mornings, and we had left town on a Tuesday evening. Assuming my reasoning was correct, I wheeled the trash can out to the curb to be picked up the next day. We then went about our business that evening unloading the car, unpacking and getting ready to return to work.

The next morning, as April was going out to the garage to leave for her job and I was headed out to walk our dog, we both took a step back. This wasn’t the trash. For an instant, I thought something happened to our pipes. Something froze and busted. But as I looked out into the garage, it hit me.

There against the back wall sat my chest freezer. The little green power light on the front was dark. I tried resetting the power outlet. The green light stayed off. I checked the breakers. All were on.

Just shy of a year and a half old, my freezer died. I knew from the smell there was no hope of moving any of the meat to our upstairs refrigerator freezer. My supply of venison was lost.

My heart sank. The deer meat in that freezer was taken from nature with the full intent of eating it – whether consuming it myself or sharing it with others. Fortunately for some friends of mine, I had already given away several pounds of the ground meat. But the remaining ground meat, roasts, steaks, backstraps, even the tenderloins from the only deer I took during the 2014 season were gone. Not only had I lost all of that 2014 doe, but I still had some venison remaining from the three deer I took in 2013. It was all spoiled.

On that morning, there was no time for sorrow. Realizing the trash was coming later that day, I sprung into action. I told April I would handle it, and that she should head on to work.

Next, I grabbed a few trash bags and tried to prepare myself for the stench that was going to rise from opening the freezer’s lid. Our trash service was coming in a couple hours, and if I missed it, I didn’t know how I was going to dispose of the spoiled meat.

I can’t imagine any smells worse than the one that greeted me when I opened the lid. In fact, I would lean to believe the only people who have smelled anything remotely close are medical students, forensic investigators, or morticians. One thing was certain, my freezer quit working at thebeginning of our week out of town.

One package of meat at a time, I filled three trash bags, and I lost my breakfast three times as well. Once the meat was out, I still had several inches of blood and melted frost pooling at the bottom of the freezer. So I dragged the unit outside and dumped it, but I didn’t want to run the hose to clean it as temperatures were – wait for it – below freezing. My only choice was to return to it after work.

I sat at my desk wondering why the freezer stopped working. Did I buy a bad freezer from the get-go? No. In fact, I researched several freezers before making the purchase. This one was highly rated with positive reviews.

After work, I rinsed the freezer with a mixture of water and fabric softener, and by the following morning the smell had dissipated. But my sense of devastation remained.

“Gone. It’s all gone.”

That phrase repeated in my head for days as I slowly began to come out of a state of shock. Beyond the personal connection with nature, all the hours spent in the woods in pursuit of deer were for naught. I didn’t lose items you buy at the grocery store. My freezer wasn’t filled with frozen pizzas or ice cream. My freezer was filled with venison I hunted and acquired by my own hands. Sure, I can buy a steak, make up some beef hamburgers or get a roast to slow cook, but it won’t be the same. Friends have offered to share some venison with me, but even that won’t be the same. The spiritual connection of eating venison I harvested will be notably absent, and because of that, there’s a void in my heart. It’ll be a long offseason until that emptiness can be filled by once again completing the field-to-table cycle in the fall.

Unfortunately, the warranty on my freezer was only good for one year, which doesn’t do any good 16 months after purchase. Eventually I will buy another freezer – one with an extended warranty that also covers the cost for loss of food. I also plan to split up where I store my venison between that new freezer, our refrigerator freezer and even the freezer at my parent’s house. I don’t even want to think about, let alone deal with, losing all my venison ever again!

Have you ever dealt with a freezer-gone bad or suffered a venison-lost disaster? Share your story with us in the comment section below.