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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cost of Meat

Lisa and Gregg with the meat of a road system deer

The other day I was a part of a discussion on subsistence.  Kodiak's status as a 'rural' community where residents can claim legal subsistence rights was recently challenged, and of late it has been a hot topic around town.  I listened as one older man declared that no one hunts for true subsistence purposes - he claimed that the trophy value and adventure trumped the value of the meat.  Another older man vehemently argued that he had it all wrong and that many, many people rely on wild game as food.  The first man countered that wild game is always more expensive than store-bought meat, and so, why would anyone bother to hunt unless they also valued the trophy and adventure?

Neither of the discussants changed their mind - both men sticking doggedly to their viewpoint - and to some extent both have a point.  Some people do hunt for the meat, and there are also trophy hunters who spend a lot of money on horns. But the discussion did get me thinking.  What is the true cost of meat?

Just based on dollars and cents wild game can be very cheap - far cheaper than store bought meat.  A road system deer can be had for the cost of gas for the drive to the trailhead, ammunition and gear depreciation.  My rifle has already shot over 30 deer so the cost per pound of deer meat is way less than a dollar a pound.  Our seiner based elk hunt was far more expensive - diesel is expensive and we had to motor all the way to north Afognak.  We also had to buy food and many people had to take time off of work. Still, not counting the time off of work, we got so much meat that the cost was still less than 3 dollars a pound.  However, some years we do not get an elk, and we do not always get so much elk.  So for elk I'd put the cost at more like 5 dollars a pound.  When Gregg and I went even further afield to North Alaska and the Brooks Range to hunt dall sheep, airline tickets to Fairbanks, truck gas, hotels and food brought the cost up to about 10 dollars per pound.

And then there is the value of the meat itself.  How much more valuable is wild game?  I know that I would rather have my family eating wild game and not feedlot fed, hormone injected, beef or chicken.  And if I do buy meat at the store I try and get the organic, free range stuff that is far more expensive than ordinary store meat.  When I eat the meat that I hunt I know where it came from and since I also butcher my own meat I know that it is very well taken care of.  There is a lot of value and satisfaction in that. I'm proud to provide for my own family.

I also admit that I hunt for trophy value and adventure.  Hunting is fun and great exercise.  And if I see 2 big bucks at the same time I generally shoot the one with bigger horns.  Unless its during the rut - then I shoot neither but keep looking for the does.  But yes I am proud of big racks.  But does it really matter?  Recreation also has value and since I am having fun while hunting that is a benefit that reduces the cost of the meat.  Put another way, if I was not hunting I would have to pay someone to use their  gym or amusement park etc.

As I see it, the cost of meat is relative and depends on what an individual or family values.  Store bought meat is very convenient - put your money down and go home with a slab of plastic wrapped product all ready to cook.  Wild game that one hunts oneself has additional value - recreational, qualitative, and self worth value.  While our family's wild game actually costs less than the stuff at Safeway, even if it was double the monetary cost it would still be cheaper.  Patrick


Philip said...

I really do appreciate your blog Patrick and Zoya. People don't know how much I miss Kodiak. Your blog helps! Interesting post, I think the key is the word subsist. I don't imagine there are many at least in Kodiak that need to harvest meat to subsist. Maybe there are, but most of us enjoy the "hunt" and the proceeds of the harvest. It's not cost effective, but it's very beneficial both to the habitat and to the one enjoying the benefit of the meat. Bottom line, game meat is probably not cheaper, but it is very much worth it! peace
keep up the good work.
phil sims
haskell texas

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

I really do think wild game is cost effective. I talked to someone yesterday who is part of an organic meat coop and they pay 8 dollars a pound for meat. I KNOW the game I hunt costs less than that. The cheap meat at Safeway is not an option either. Patrick

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

I added up the costs for all the harvested meat for this year:

Elk hunt food and gas = 1600$
Road System car gas around @ 10$ a trip = 90$
Gear depreciation @ 100$ a trip = 1000$
(and this is a very conservative figure - it is probably a lot less)
Total Cost 2690$

And then added up the returns:

2 Elk = 600 pounds
7 deer = 560
total 1160 pounds of packaged meat

So I get around 2 dollars and 30 cents a pound for our meat. I figure that is even cheaper than buying the cheap meat at Safeway - at least on Kodiak.