January 18, 2009 – The Savvy Consumer

Last week an old barn roof collapsed on a small elk herd near Metaline in Pend Oreille County. Volunteers from the area turned out to salvage the meat for a food bank. Elk meat is highly nutritious, heart healthy, lean and tasty. The volunteer crew of skilled hunters field dressed the six elk. The Department of Fish & Wildlife made the sensible decision to allow the volunteer crew to keep two of the elk carcasses as a reward for their hard work, while the other four were donated to the Loon Lake Food Pantry. Volunteers at the food pantry will grind the meat to provide a ground meat product for the 1,100 families served by the food pantry each month. This was a perfectly legal series of events because the animals in question are wild game.

Just before Christmas, we had several representatives from an immigrant Hmong family visit our ranch to buy three young goats for holiday feasting. Goat meat is highly nutritious, heart healthy, lean and tasty. They surveyed the available stock and selected their preferred animals. The men borrowed my husband’s field dressing knife to slaughter the animals before returning home. They will prepare the meat for their own families and friends. The transaction was in a gray area legally because the animals in question are domesticated.

Can anybody explain to me why it’s safe to shoot an elk, field dress the carcass, spend a couple of hours carrying it out of the woods, toss it into the pickup and spend a couple of hours driving home, butcher it and prep for the barbecue and the freezer – but not treat a goat the same? We can slaughter a goat at the ranch, prep it for the freezer and toss it in within an hour – as long as it’s for our own use. Maybe we just need to knock down a piece of the fence and let our customers shoot them in the field. Then we can call them wild game.

Agreed - we need good regulations in place on feedlots and mass slaughter facilities in the interest of protecting the general public health, safety and welfare. But let’s put a little science to it. Savvy consumers, like skilled hunters, deserve the opportunity to take responsibility for their own families and gain direct access to nutritious, tasty and locally produced meat direct from the producer.