Recently I posted on my first experience using TAG Bags for bagging a moose we took on a hunt in Western Alaska. In that post I commented on how fast the bags dried; a huge factor for those of us who find it necessary to cool our meat in water (in large contractor trash bags) to prevent spoilage in warmer weather. We had warm temps on our moose hunt and opted to quick-cool our meat right off the kill. When we pulled the meat out of the trash bags it was soaked with condensation, but because the flies were out in force, we had to put the meat in game bags immediately. With cotton bags, the bags would have become soaked with moisture, requiring a change-out for clean dry bags back in camp. As I said, the TAG bags were ideal for the initial stages of our hunt, because the material is a synthetic and doesn't absorb moisture. The bags were immediately soaked, but within a day they were totally dry.
Our meat has now arrived at the butcher shop (we do all our meat out at Indian Valley Meats), and when it arrived we were told that all the quarters had not glazed over and had become slick on the surface, creating an ideal environment for spoilage from surface bacteria. Some of the surface of the meat will have to be trimmed off to prevent spoilage. Needless to say, I was very surprised (and disappointed) to see that, as I assumed the meat would develop a hard glaze (crust) inside the TAG bags. Clearly, it did not.
I just got off the phone with Doug Drum, owner of Indian Valley Meats, having called him to discuss his experiences with these bags so far. Being a relatively new product, I was curious whether other hunters have had similar experiences with them. Doug told me that he only knows of two orders that have come in so far where those bags were used, and both orders had the same issue; no hard crust on the meat and a serious risk of surface contamination from bacteria. His take is that the material is not breathable enough to allow a hard glaze to form consistently in wet and dry conditions. I've dealt with many thousands of pounds of meat in camp over the last twenty years or so of hunting here in Alaska, both as a hunting guide and as a sport hunter, and I believe the TAG bags would probably allow meat to glaze in dry weather... but now I have my doubts if the weather is damp.
When TAG Bags first came out I saw them at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show in Anchorage. The material seemed kind of tight and my first reaction was to blow through it to see how good the air circulation was. I could not force air through the material. Shortly after that I was contacted with the news that the material had changed and was now breathable. The set of bags I purchased is certainly more breathable than the original stuff, but still very tight. Air flows much more freely through my heavy cotton bags than through the current TAG Bag material. Another negative is that virtually ALL of my TAG Bags were damaged during the back-haul from the field on Everts Air Cargo. This, despite the use of a poly overbag to prevent damage. In contrast, I have shipped game meat many times with nothing on it beyond a heavy cotton game bag, with little or no damage from the same handling process (raw meat in game bags shipped on a shrink-wrapped pallet). The bags are just not as rugged as cotton bags. But I think I could live with that if the material was more breathable. I'll just use the poly overbags; they only cost $1.25 or so at Alaska Mill and Feed, which is also where I get my game bags and salt. I'll post a photo of the poly bags below this post.
So... I may be back to square one on this, unless the bag material is changed to address these issues.
I would be very interested in your experiences with this bag in wet and dry weather, especially in damp, humid conditions. I like the concept of a synthetic bag that breathes well, but so far it appears that the TAG Bags have fallen short just a bit. I also like how compact the bags are. I routinely carry a full compliment of cotton bags in my pack at all times, so I don't have to go all the way back to camp for them once we get an animal down (we may be miles from camp). A compact bag is ideal for my hunting style.
So how about it? I'm looking for hunters who have at least three or four Alaska hunts under their belt and have had experience with TAG Bags and cotton bags for hanging and hauling meat.
I will be conducting a study of these bags compared to cotton, where we will actually be measuring the bacteria count over several days, to determine the breathability of these bags and their ability to mitigate the growth of spoilage-causing bacteria better than cotton. I will post the results of that study here when they become available. I think these bags are a huge leap in the right direction, but they may not be quite there yet. Doug Drum recommends NOT putting game meat in "plastic" (which is essentially what the TAG Bags are), but I think if the material breathes well, he might change his perspective. SEE HIS ARTICLE on the care of game meat for more details on this.
I'm attaching an image of both cotton bags and TAG Bags on our meat pole, where our game meat remained hanging for the entire hunt. The hunter is holding a hind quarter in a TAG Bag, while the bag in the foreground (on the far left) is a cotton bag with a side of ribs in it. These are the bags I've used for years.