Elk Meat Production and Consumption on the Rise

In the Midwest it’s not uncommon to see farms filled with cows, pigs, or even sheep, but it’s a little foreign to come across hills covered in elk.

Elk are slowly making appearances at restaurants and farmer’s markets around the state of Iowa.

I took a visit to one of the few elk farms in the state, then a local restaurant that prepares elk, to ask what prompted that decision. I also spoke with an expert about the health benefits of eating elk.

The Antler Ridge Elk Farm

It was 2001 when Antler Ridge started to raise elk on their ranch, but it wasn’t an easy decision. Owners Bob and Karen Thuerauf took a long time thinking about different forms of agriculture for their 40 acres of land.

They wanted something that would make money, and elk have numerous avenues of opportunites. Karen listed things such as selling them as breeding stock, selling the meat at the meat market, saving the hides and making leather, selling the two ivory teeth each elk have, making tables or lamps out of hard antler, using the hard antlers as dog bones or knife handles, using the velvet antler in pills for arthritis pain, using their hallow hair to put on bobbers for fishermen, and making belt buckles or clocks out of the buttons, which are the ends of the antlers that fall off every year.

The Thuerauf’s main income from these animals comes from their involvement in the farmer’s markets in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

These are the prices for the meat sold at Antler Ridge.

These are the prices for the meat sold at Antler Ridge.

They load up one of their deep freezers, which is packed full of different sections of the animal, into the back of their truck. Then, they take a trip to the farmer’s market, and plug the freezer into a generator.

Karen said there are no other elk farmers in Iowa who sell elk like they do at the farmer’s markets. They even have customers coming with coolers to be filled, or who want to make shipments of meat across the country.

“It’s exciting to see it grow, and have the same people coming back,” said Karen. “Some of them start to come with their cooler on wheels, and you think, ‘All right!’, it’s really great. We even have one lady who sends a big box to her parents every Christmas in Washington DC.”

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Selling to Restuarants

When it comes to selling their meat to local restaurant owners, Karen says it’s not something that they do a lot of because they want to sell directly to the people. They do, however, sell their meat to the Sanctuary Pub in Iowa City whose specialty is the elk meatloaf.

Another restaurant in the area that uses elk is Vesta in Coralville. Their meat comes from another elk producer out of West Burlington, Iowa.

The owner, Seth Hershey, said that he wanted to go outside of the box with his menu items, and there is a gentleman he knows who raised elk, and so the decision was to have it on the menu.

One item you can find is the Elk Rueben.

The reasoning was, “[The gentleman] was doing a product he wasn’t selling a lot of, that was the pastrami,” said Hershey. “He was trying to do cold cuts, and I wanted to do something else with it, so, I like ruebens, and Elk Rueben it was then!”

The Nutrition Value of Elk Meat

One thing that Karen and Hershey both agreed on is that elk meat tastes a lot like beef, but is actually healthier and leaner.

Dr. Kathy Mellen, a Registered Dietitian and lecturer in the Department of Human Physiology at the University of Iowa said that elk is indeed a healthier option than most other types of meat.

This data is according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It refers to how a 3-ounce cooked portion of elk meat compares with other lean meats in the nutrition department.

This data is according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It refers to how a 3-ounce cooked portion of elk meat compares with other lean meats in the nutrition department.

“Elk is typically considered a game, or wild meat,” said Mellen.”And, the more an animal moves, and the leaner that animal, the leaner the meat. Meaning, less fat, and in particular with meat it’s the saturated fat that we are concerned about.”

The meat is lower in fat and cholesterol, and higher in protein and iron. The fat doesn’t marble through it like in beef.

Karen said that she uses elk meat in all of her recipes that ask for beef because of the similar taste.

The taste of the elk meat has a lot to do with how the meat is prepared as well. Because it is so tender and moist, Karen suggested to cook the meat at a low temperature to avoid a leathery product.

The Future of the Elk Industry

Elk meat is still a foreign thought to many consumers around the area, but because of the health benefits and increasing availability, it is something that could be making a known presence on menus and in farmer’s markets.

The Antler Ridge Elk farm owners said they love what they do, and have every intention to grow their business even more.

“It’s really a lot of fun, and it’s something different all the time,” said Karen. “It’s kind of funny when I walk though the stores, because you hear ‘Hey mom, it’s the elk lady!’ and all you do is laugh.”

 

Contact Information:

Bob & Karen Thuerauf

194 Rogers Grove Rd. Ely, IA 52227

319.848.7653 or 319.360.3701

thueraufelk@southslope.net

 

Seth Hershey

849 Quarry Road Suite 100, Coralville, IA 52241

319.33.VESTA or 319.338.3782

www.vestaiowa.com

 

Kathy Mellen, Ph.D., R.D.

Department of Health and Human Physiology

E128 Field House Iowa City, Iowa 52242

319.384.4568

www.uiowa.edu/~hhp

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Dietitians and Nutritionists in Iowa City

When it comes to eating healthy and finding the right proportions it can sometimes be difficult to decipher all of the advice out there. Something I think may help people of all incomes and all ages is to meet with a dietitian or nutritionist. I have researched dietitians and nutritionists who are not affiliated with hospitals, and are located within five miles of Iowa City. Using the information I found on healthgrades, I conducted a helpful map with addresses and phone numbers for your convenience to find a dietitian or nutritionist close to you!

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How to Prepare a Bottom Round Roast

As I was home for Easter, my mother and I decided to cook a bottom round roast together. A bottom round roast is the outside muscle of the upper leg of a cow.

Some people prefer this to be cooked in a crock pot because the meat tends to be more tender and juicy, but this is a tutorial on how to cook it in the oven. At a low temperature and longer time the meat still comes out extremely tender and flavorful.

The ingredients you will need are:

  • A Round Bottom Roast
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Yellow Onions
  • Potatoes
  • 1 can of Beefy Mushroom Soup
  • Fresh Cloves of Garlic
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper

**A lot of the measurements are just preference of what vegetables you want more of, and what flavors you want to stick out more.**

The first thing to do is preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Then, you should heat the pan you will be cooking the meat in on the stove, and add some butter.

While the butter is heating, mix some flour, pepper, and salt in a large container and then cover the entire outside of the meat with the mixture.

Once the butter is melted, you will need to sear the meat, which means to brown all of the edges. This helps to keep some of the flavor inside of the meat while is slowly cooks in the oven.

While the meat is searing, you can clean your potatoes. We bought the miniature potatoes so we didn’t have to cut bigger ones. You can choose whatever; the trick is to cut all the veggies the same size so they all cook evenly.

Next, cut the onions and celery and have them ready to add to the cooking pan.

Take the meat out of the pan and add your onions, about a handful of fresh garlic cloves, and celery. You should sauté these and then add your can of beefy mushroom soup. After you have done this, place the roast back into the pan, and pour about three cups of water overtop.

Place the lid on top of your pan and then put it into the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes and then add your carrots and potatoes.

You will know your roast is done once the meat is browned through, and the gravy is bubbling.

After the roast is done cooking for about an hour per pound (we had a three pound roast so ours cooked for about three hours), you let it sit for about 10 minutes with the lid on to let the juices seep in and let the meat rest.

After it’s done resting, it’s easier to place the meat onto a plate to slice.

After you have sliced your roast you can place some carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, and even some garlic to a plate, and then a couple slices of your roast and you’re good to enjoy!

The roast itself is not that difficult to prepare, it’s more of the cooking time that takes the most, but other than that it’s a pretty easy recipe that you can make for your friends or if you have family coming to visit.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial on how to cook a bottom round roast!