(Siku Circumpolar News, 17 October 2009) -- Managers with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Reindeer Research Program are trying to give a boost to the reindeer industry on the Seward Peninsula by providing a mobile slaughter facility along with an expert instructor who knows how to use it, reports the Geophysical Institute. Greg Finstad, head of the reindeer program at UAF, ordered a 45-foot self-contained slaughter plant, winterized it, had it barged to Nome, and helped design a "high-latitude range management course" at the university campus there. To run the program, Finstad hired Heikki Muhonen of Finland, who will live in Nome for about two years. "He's the world's expert," Finstad said. "He's set up slaughter facilities all across Russia, Kazakhstan, Finland, Sweden and Norway." One of Finstad's goals with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project is to teach local people how to process reindeer using the plant, which is approved by the USDA and will result in inspected steaks, backstrap, burger, and other cuts of meat. The reindeer industry on the Seward Peninsula is not what it once was. Following the migration of caribou onto the Seward Peninsula in the 1990s—when some herders saw hundreds of their animals drift off with the wild version of their species—there are now just a few viable herds in the area. Two are in the Teller area, and others roam the muskeg near Stebbins/St. Michael, Nome, Wales, and on St. Lawrence Island. Finstad said the mobile processing plant can be barged to areas with reindeer, and Muhonen will train people how to use it in different areas, with the goal of inspiration. Muhonen. who comes from a small village in Finland, visited the Seward Peninsula at the invite of UAF a few other times, giving meat-cutting clinics in different villages. He knows how to set up a processing plant, and he has experience working to train people on how to make it pay off, Finstad said. Finstad hopes the course and the slaughter facility will give villagers more ideas and options, not necessarily related to reindeer.
Posted 19 October 2009; 1:44:10 PM. Permalink