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grayghost
03-20-2008, 07:18 PM
Published Thursday | March 20, 2008

Feds squeeze poachers' pal out of sausage business

BY DAVID HENDEE
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Attention, deer poachers: Jack McClanahan is out of the black market sausage business.
McClanahan, who federal agents say churned out and sold tons of tainted summer sausage from a filthy garage, was fined $10,000 and sentenced to three years of probation Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Federal officials said McClanahan's processing operation was widely known among deer poachers, who fed his meat grinder with about 150 deer a year from Nebraska and Iowa.
Many of the animals were poached shot illegally at night or out of season, said Mark Webb, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent.
McClanahan also told federal undercover agents that he sometimes shot deer at night with a rifle from the bathroom window of his home in Omaha's Ponca Hills neighborhood, retrieving carcasses in the morning.
He baited deer with corn scattered under trees about 100 yards from his house. When he would wake in the early morning hours to use the bathroom, McClanahan would shine a spotlight on a feeding deer to freeze it in place and shoot.
"Everyone knew that if they shot a deer (illegally), to take it to Jack. He'd process it no questions asked," Webb said. "He had huge demand for the summer sausage. Huge. It was tasty."
McClanahan is a retired butcher who made sausage at a Hinky Dinky grocery.
Besides processing meat for hunters, he sold summer sausage in 5-pound casings at $3.50 a pound, Webb said. He also made salami, jerky and snack sticks, and authorities estimated annual production at about 10,000 pounds. Word of mouth pushed sales.
"But it's a wonder people weren't dying from eating the stuff," Webb said.
Mouse droppings, maggots, deer carcasses, dried blood, deer hair and other contaminants littered the commercial-grade meat processing equipment that filled McClanahan's three-car garage, Webb said. The garage had no running water for cleaning.
When wildlife agents seized the equipment and cleaned it with hot water and soap at a carwash, they discovered two lead bullets the size of a man's thumb lodged in the grinder. The blade had been shaving lead into the meat, they said.
Agents worked on the case for about 18 months. An Iowa-based agent would bring deer to McClanahan, saying it was poached. No problem, McClanahan said, explaining that a lot of the deer he processed were poached.
"Mr. McClanahan cut corners, and that's what got him into trouble," Webb said.
Private deer processors aren't required to have a permit from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission or any other agency. But they can process the meat only for hunters and aren't allowed to sell the product.
McClanahan also failed to provide hunters with required paperwork documenting the transfer of a deer carcass to him.
His production of adulterated meat violated federal health standards, and his finished packages of summer sausage and other products which contained pork weren't marked "Not for Sale," another violation of federal law.
Webb said the investigation led to prosecutions in Nebraska and Iowa of more than 30 hunters who took deer to McClanahan.
McClanahan, who was 66 when he pleaded guilty in December, appeared in court Wednesday with his attorney, J. William Gallup. He walked with a limp and wore a pair of the court's headsets to better hear the proceedings.
When U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon asked McClanahan how he intended to pay the fine, the former butcher said he was looking for work.
"I'd just like to get this over with," McClanahan said.
Bataillon ordered McClanahan to pay at least $100 a month toward his fine, which goes to the Nebraska Wildlife Crime Stoppers Fund. He ordered McClanahan to stop his custom slaughter operations and stay away from hunters, anglers and trappers. He forfeited his meat processing equipment.
The judge said McClanahan still could make sausage for his own household.
McClanahan had one question. "If people ask how to make something (sausage), can I do it?" he asked. Not for money, Bataillon replied, adding that anyone who knows of McClanahan's conviction "shouldn't be asking your advice."