Moose-cutting rookies learn butchery basics in class

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- When Chelsie Venechuk took a break from her job in Nikolai, her co-workers gave her an assignment for her stint in Fairbanks.

''People out there told me I couldn't come back if I didn't know how to butcher a moose,'' she said.

Venechuk and seven other moose-cutting rookies recently donned butcher's aprons and learned all the basics of how to cut a moose and prepare it for a storage in a freezer during a class sponsored by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Participants paid $50 for the daylong class taught at the Fairbanks Food Bank by Charlie Rex, a former City Councilman who's butchered meat for a living before.

The session started with a lecture about field dressing a moose and preparing it for storage. But by early afternoon, most of the students had bloody hands and aprons and were busy cutting meat with little supervision from Rex.

Once all the meat was cut and a large portion of it was put through a grinder, the participants arranged themselves in an assembly line to wrap all the meat and make it freezer-safe.

While Venechuk said the class didn't leave her completely confident that she could butcher a moose on her own, it did provide with her with several tricks that will come in handy should she ever encounter the task again.

She said the most important lesson of the class was learning to identify the various muscle groups.

During his instruction, Rex said meat-cutting techniques depends a lot on individual taste. As he cut a large muscle group from a front shoulder, he said he prefers to leave the muscle intact and make it into a roast.

''I don't steak anything out of the shoulder,'' he said. ''A lot of customers might come in and want to steak it. That's fine, but they're going to be chewing on it for about a week.''

Rex also recommended butchers not get greedy by trying to save as much meat as possible when cutting off fat and hair that's still on the meat. He demonstrated by cutting large pieces of usable meat surrounding the unattractive discolored portions.

''Throw the baby out with the bath water,'' he said.

Once Rex got to the neck and started cutting the vertebrae from the center, he encountered a spot of dark, dried blood. That's where the moose was shot, he said.

The bullet site requires extra care in making sure all bone fragments, lead or hair that might have attached to the bullet is removed from the meat.

At the end of the cutting session, participants had several tubs of meat cut into square stew chunks as well as ground meat and chunks of roast. The bones and scraps were donated to a local dog musher.

The moose was provided by Sharon McLeod-Everette, a volunteer instructor for Fish and Game's ''Becoming an Outdoorswoman'' program.

McLeod-Everette, who killed the moose Sept. 4, said having the class butcher it saved her more than a week of cutting the meat.

''I usually do a piece a day after work,'' McLeod-Everette said.

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