How to

3 April 2017

Eskimo Village to Boost Employment by Selling Reindeer Meat

A native Eskimo village in Western Alaska, known at Mekorkyuk, is aiming to take full advantage of one of its few resources; selling reindeer meat.

The tundra-covered village’s government is looking to expand its industry and employment rates with a reindeer herd, located 40 miles off the coast in Bering Sea which was introduced to Nunivak Island a century ago. The herd has an estimated 2,500 animals, being the largest source of commercially sold reindeer meet in the state, according to manager of the University of Alaska Fairbanks reindeer research programme, ecologist Greg Finstad.

The tribe’s operation manager Dale Smith said, “The idea behind this was to try to re-establish that market and the whole process here.”

Due to the community and surrounding ones being so remote, job opportunities are sparse, with the unemployment rate being approximately 28% between 2011 and 2015 in Mekoryuk, and so the new venture will provide a boost to local industries. The village also aims to therefore boost self-suffiency by selling the reindeer to food outlets in urban areas of Alaska such as Anchorage, offering reindeer steaks, burgers and roasts.

The venture has a $1.8million federal grant from the Economic Development Administration backing it, which will be used for a new slaughterhouse. The Coastal Villages Region Fund is also providing some funding towards four new snowmobiles to get the project underway efficiently.

The meat, not as commonly sold in the western world, is tasty and contains a high level of essential fatty acids, which boost hormone production, regulate blood pressure, liver function and the immune and inflammatory responses, among other health benefits, as Down to Earth reports.

Previously, the Cup’ig Eskimo community of 200 did something similar, selling reindeer meat to a wide range of consumers, including high-end restaurants in Denver from a regulated slaughterhouse. This slaughterhouse however ultimately failed when the villages ‘leader’ of the operation died in a helicopter crash in 1996, while observing the reindeer population of the island. This therefore led to locals being left to slaughtering themselves, which led to a limited amount being sold.

The new venture is said to surpass the success of the previous, an official with the federal economic development agency Shirley Kelly saying “It’s going to help them [the natives] build economic resiliency.”

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.