Now that the hunting season is starting to wind down, many peninsula hunters have turned their thoughts to what to do with all the meat they harvested this year.
"Business is up quite a bit from last year," said James Mackey, assistant manager at Peninsula Processing and Smokehouse.
Mackey will process a diversity of wild game in a normal season. "We do moose, caribou, goat, sheep, bear and even a few deer from down in the Southeast and Kodiak."
He said he's stayed busy this year. "We had one group that brought in 10 caribou. That was one of our bigger orders. They hunted over in Mulchatna, across the inlet where you're allowed to take one bull and four cows per hunter."
Mackey may do much of the processing himself, but also gets cutting and grinding assistance from up to three other people when things get really busy.
"A lot of people will steak out the back straps and hind quarters and the rest will be made into sausage or burger," said Mackey. Peninsula Processing and Smokehouse does eight different flavors of cased sausage.
"With some of the trophy bulls though, the older they are, the tougher they get, so some people may get more of those animals ground up," he said.
"People also sausage out bears most of the time because of the trichinosis," said Mackey referring to how large steaks and roasts could be a gamble to eat if served undercooked. "In my opinion, bear sausage is the best sausage around anyway."
Mackey said much of his clientele are out of state hunters.
"It seems to me that most Alaskan hunters can butcher their own meat and only come in for specialty stuff that they don't have equipment for, like sausage," he said.
Lisa Hanson, the owner of Custom Seafood Processors Inc., said business was also good.
"We had a very good season," she said. "Also, we had a lot coming in from here on the peninsula, rather than from outside sectors. We saw a lot more moose from the local area, but caribou was good too. It was consistent the whole way through the season."
Hanson said she does do a lot of meat for out of state hunters, but locals also make up quite a bit of her customer base.
"The locals take awhile because it takes trust to get them to bring in their stuff, but a lot are starting to being their meat in," she said.
Hanson said the quality of game meat coming in this year was also way up, since the weather wasn't as warm as last year.
"This year was much better," she said. "Sometimes it's a challenge for early in the season with spoilage from warm temps, but if we knew we had one that had been down for several days, we would look it over good and then quickly process it."
Jim Clark, the manager at Echo Lake's Superior Meats, said he has also notice the good quality of game coming in this year.
"It was a very good year for handling," he said. "We only refused two that were too sour to process. I don't like to turn people away, but if it's too dirty or soured from poor care, it could contaminate our equipment or other meat hanging in the cooler."
Like most processors, and hunters in general, Echo Lake's Superior Meats hangs all their meat before processing to age it. Meat that isn't aged, or done for too short a period can be very tough to swallow literally.
"We generally hang meat for four days unless people specify shorter or longer," said Clark. "But the more it hangs the more tender it will be."
Clark said he saw some big moose come in this year, but said the biggest moose he processed, in regard to body size not rack size, was a huge bull from Mystery Creek Road. "The four quarters weighed 850 pounds," he said.
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