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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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!

Moonrakers & one.twenty.six : A profile on meat done right.

It’s somewhat hard to miss – the narrow entryway leading up steep steps to a city-like restaurant called Moonrakers. The circular purple and yellow sign hanging just above the door. Next door you find small windows, and the words ” one twenty six” spelled out. Twin doors reflect each other, one going in, and one going up.

One twenty six, which opened it’s doors in 2000, is owned by the same person, Mathew Chackalackal, as Moonrakers, which opened in 2011.

They are two separate restaurants, but share the same quality of food: vegetarian fed meat, local produce (when possible), and homemade bread.

I sat down with Mathew and talked about his restaurant’s concept, and why he does things a bit different than most restaurants in the Iowa City area. His meat is vegetarian fed, it’s hormone free, it’s antibiotic free. His reasoning?

“We can verify the source,” says Mathew.“I got into this largely because when I take my kids out I make sure it meets all this criteria, and it’s really hard to find.”

He stated that when he opened up Moonrackers he still wanted to keep those standards.

“I was hoping that I could get young people to be able to differentiate. Not just purely by the taste, but by what goes into it and the reasons for going with that. Even if you look at our hamburger buns they are made in-house fresh. All it has in it are eggs, canola oil, flour, yeast, salt, and sugar, that’s it.”

Mathew explained, “When we get it, we get meat that has met all this criteria – no hormones, no antibiotics.We know what goes into it, we butcher the meat in-house, and we grind it in-house fresh.”

To provide clarity as to why this is so important to him, Mathew came up with a possible situation.

“If there is some sort of outbreak, and if you know that this came from one particular farm, I can tell with certainty to my customers “Don’t worry you can eat this.” But usually what happens is meat comes from so many different places. So let’s say you go to the local meat locker, they sell all the nice cuts of meat you know the tenderloin, your rib eye, your round steak- all those they are taking out, and then they take what you cannot use for anything and it all goes into a meat grinder, and it comes out looking like ground beef. And it could be local, it could be all those things, but it could have come from 20 different farms, they don’t know what cut went into it, and out comes this burger which when you taste it if you add enough stuff to it you can’t even tell. That’s most of the burgers you find in most places.”

Mathew encourages people to ask questions about the meat they use, and one of his number one goals is to have students ask more, and not just his restaurant but in all other restaurants they are consuming food in.

“I kind of want students to ask “What is this meat and why does it have to be vegetarian fed?” That’s my goal,” Mathew said. “To have young people try it and ask. When they go to other places they should ask “Where did this beef come from?” “Which cow did it come from?” “Which farm did it come from?” “What if there is a recall?” “Am I going to get madcow disease from this?” he encouraged.

He stated that what he would like to do is to serve healthy, high-quality, tasty food, preferably local if available. That his restaurants try to be organic, natural, and local whenever possible.

“When my kids come in and eat it it is no different then what they would be eating at home. So it gives me a certain comfort,” Mathew said. “To me, that means I can say with certainty, there’s nothing bad in our meat.”

Moonrakers and one twenty six both decline any advertising opportunities. Mathew explained that they highly rely on word-of-mouth. He wants to attract a younger crowd, and to do so, he keeps his prices as low as he can.

During dinner, a burger and fries is only $8, but if you are wanting lunch, the price is lowered to $6.

Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

 

A friend of mine is spending her time in Costa Rica lately (jealous!). She was inspired by my blog to begin her own, and boy does she have some GREAT recipes. Her blog is entitled “Pure Life” and caters to the artistic person with a love of food and travel.

If I could travel the world just as she does, I would be a pretty happy person, but instead I will just reside in Iowa City, which still has it’s positives.

I’ve heard Iowa City referred to as the “melting pot” of Iowa. There are so many foreign students who come to the University of Iowa, and the clash of this creates some pretty interesting restaurants to pop up. I think I should feel lucky to have the beautiful ped mall just blocks away from where I live!

Although I would love to eat out here every day (which is an extremely hard thing to resist), I know that I am a college student on a budget. I also realize that eating out every single day would not be the greatest decision for my health.

One of the biggest reasons I want to eat out all the time though is convenience. I am always on a tight schedule, so finding the time to cook everyday is extremely difficult.

But, with fresh ingredients, lots of color, and easy to follow directions, Joanna’s blog makes my mouth water, and want to attempt the recipes she has posted.

Her recent post on “Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin”  seems like the perfect fit for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare food.

5S8A2719_2

Although it takes two hours total to cook, the preparation is simple, and it would be easy to do other things while the delicious dish is in the oven.

I suggest you give it a try!

An Interview on Meat with Midori Gingerich- HyVee Dietitian

Brianna Sudrla:

In recent years there has been a sparked debate about the industrialized meat market and whether or not the new methods are causing negative affects on the health of it’s consumers.

Today I am speaking with Midori Gingerich about this issue.  Midori is a registered dietitian at the Coralville, Iowa, Hy-Vee.

Well thank you for talking with me today about this Midori.

Midori Gingerich:

Sure!

Brianna:

Just to jump right into it, my first question was do you believe that food additives affect our hormones and our health?

Midori:

A long time ago we didn’t even have to worry about that because people grew their own food and made their own product, and we weren’t as concerned with the hormones and additives and things that were added into food. And, as we become more industrialized in this country, that has become more of an issue. It may affect our health. There definitely needs to be more research done on the topic.

Brianna:

Does meat like chicken’s with added steroids to make them grow faster and larger have an affect on our bodies?

Midori:

They have done some studies where they kind of linked that the steroids in the chickens is leading to early puberty in girls, but there’s been semi links. It has not been concrete I guess I would say. So, they definitely need more research in that area is what I was picking up on. And also, what else is different in their environment than say 10 20 50 years ago as well? So is it just the hormones or is it other things we’re doing in our environment as well? But, “A” more studies need to be done, and “B” finding out what are the other causes or other things that may be causing that as well too.

You know being aware of those kinds of things, and trying to choose the lean cuts of beef as far as for our health more whole foods, staying away from the fattier cuts of beef as well.

Brianna:

Do you think there are certain types of meats we should sort of steer clear from?

Midori:

As far as health, we want to be choosing the leaner cuts of beef like a loin or a round cut is going to be our more lean cuts. It’s not that I can’t have that porterhouse steak, but definitely monitoring how often I’m having it and what’s my serving size. But, just making sure we’re getting a variety too. I mean you can eat lean beef everyday and that’s great lean beef can actually be very good for the heart, but also making sure we’re getting in the omega-3’s from the salmon, and getting some variety in with the pork, the chicken, and the turkey as well.

Brianna:

Okay, would you say meat is still essential to our diet though?

Midori:

Um, yeah! Meat is definitely still essential as a part of a well-balanced plate and a well-balanced meal. I mean obviously meat fits in as part of the protein portion of our diet. And, there’s other things besides meat that we can use for well-balanced protein source, but meat does offer a lot of vitamins and minerals. I mean there are people who are vegans and vegetarians for different personal reasons and that’s not a bad thing. It’s definitely about them getting a balance in their diet. But, if someone was going strictly vegan or vegetarian strictly because they think it’s healthier, you can still have a very healthy diet incorporating meat. Beef for instance, since I’m talking about that one, has a lot of iron, has B vitamins, B6 and B12, it has phosphorus, and zinc. It has a lot of essential nutrients that we wouldn’t find in our beans and starchy vegetables and things like that.

Brianna:

When purchasing meat is there things we should look out for?

Midori:

We used to think that it was the big thing was looking at the cholesterol in the meat and food in particular for it’s effects on our heart health. We’re finding more and more cholesterol, it is important we want to monitor how much cholesterol we are taking in through dietary means, but one thing that is even more of a factor is saturated fat. So checking out for the saturated fat content in the different cuts of meat, looking for more of those lean cuts, watching for the portion sizes, or remembering the size of the palm of my hand, or the size of a deck of cards that’s one portion size. Typically your fresh meat coming out of the case, it’s again less processed than the frozen or the canned ones.

Brianna:

So which meat do you buy and eat?

Midori:

All of the above to be honest. I’ll do the lean beef, but I do chicken, turkey, salmon and fish, here in the Midwest we don’t eat enough of that. Just trying to get the lean cuts of beef, get the plain cuts, and then I season it up when I go home too. I can marinate it myself at home, and then I know exactly what’s going on my food too.

Brianna:

What lunchmeat would you recommend to college students who makes sandwiches three times a week?

Midori:

Yeah, yeah! And lunchmeat is a great source of protein. It tends to be, well depends what kind you buy, but there’s like the roast beef, there’s the chicken and turkey, they’re leaner cuts of meat, which is great. So I would say sticking to more of the sliced lunchmeats.

Brianna:

Well thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to me, I really appreciate it.

Midori:

Yeah I’m glad it worked out!

**For more information on Midori Gingerich, please visit her profile on the HyVee webpage**

**Below you can find the full unedited interview**