Thursday, December 07, 2006

Elk Farm in Todd County, KY

Life in The Upper South... More About Birds and Animals... And What I Think About It...

Elk farm

A small elk herd is held in a series of pens, behind the Amish store south of Elkton, KY. We saw these bulls on Tuesday when we were over there, as well as a small pen of younger bulls and a pen of cows.

Elk are ruminants like cattle. Their first stomach, an anaerobic digester of cellulose, is called a rumen, . Ruminants spend their time grazing and ruminating -- that is, regurgitating food matter from the rumen and re-chewing it. (This is also known as "chewing the cud.") When the grass is sufficiently ground up and fermented, it passes to the next stomach.

It seems probable that the elk meat sold within the Amish store comes from this herd. Elk meat, like buffalo meat, is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, pork or lamb, and it compares favorably with chicken and turkey (according to nutritional information supplied by Grande Premium Meats, an online seller of buffalo and elk meats.)

Personally, I am not interested in trying elk meat for a couple of reasons.

  • Reason 1: I am finicky about meats other than beef, pork, turkey and chicken. I avoid mutton, duck, goose, venison, etc. (and the etc. includes elk.)
  • Reason 2: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). I would want certification that the meat was from a CWD-tested animal, if I were to try the meat which is unlikely (see Reason One.)
Some of the Asian countries use elk and deer "velvet antlers" in folk medicine -- antlers that are removed before they are large and calcified. South Korea is a major processor and consumer, as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

I wasn't able to find any official information about the current market for U.S. velvet antler, but producers have been greatly impacted by North America's CWD problems. I'm always sorry when someone who makes their living from the land is having difficulties, and I hope those people have survived the crisis with their farms or ranches intact, but frankly, the velvet antler business is vaguely sickening to me.

The elk in the photo appear well-tended and healthy and they certainly have handsome racks. Apparently their owner isn't selling velvet antlers. I wish they had a little more room to roam, but I know that Todd County farmland isn't cheap, and neither are the materials for a strong, high fence.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you forget where your food comes from? Maybe you are so far removed from you habitual creation you fail to appreciate the natural cycle these Amish Farmers are promoting? Whatever the case may be your criticism of this rural community's efforts to provide a livelihood is uneducated. You have educated yourself on ruminants feeding and digestion but what about it's history. Elk are more natural here than cattle or hogs will ever be. They were not introduced by white man. They were here before we were. CWD hasn't devastated the US. Do your research. Appreciate your farmers more than your food. Whether you eat it or not.

Genevieve Netz said...

Feel better now, Anonymous? Your insults are unwarranted. You'll hardly find a better friend of the farmer than I am. And as the reader will also note, I sign my name to what I write. But you don't.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
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IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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