Caribou is a naturally organic meat rich with nutrients and taste. Wild caribou and domestic reindeer are considered to be a single species throughout the world. We are presently offering reindeer from a fall harvest in Greenland, mildly flavoured and rich in antioxidants.
History of the Caribou
Caribou is a term used in North America for wild reindeer, or a deer from the Arctic or Sub Arctic. These animals can be broken down into three subspecies: Peary caribou, Barren-ground caribou, and Migratory Woodland caribou.
Peary caribou are the smallest of the three subspecies and are found on the Queen Elizabeth Islands in Canada and north west coast of Greenland. These animals are known for their white coats and small migration patterns, travelling in much smaller herds than the more southern caribou species.
These animals are found in the North West Territories as well as Nunavut through to Baffin Island. This subspecies of caribou has the largest antlers of the three and their colouring consists of a white muzzle and a light brown coat with white patches along the neck, belly, and under the tail. The Barren-ground caribou are known for their large migratory patterns travelling up to 5000 km per year and covering 1 000 000 km squared. These animals comprise half of all Canadian caribou and are a source of income through northern tourism as well as a source of nutrition and cultural significance for the local Inuit and First Nations. In recent years hunting bans have been put in place in some northern regions and certain native communities are seeing an exacerbation of obesity rates and diagnoses of type two diabetes as their healthy and affordable food source is unavailable. Barren-ground caribou are drastically declining due to a combination of over-hunting, northern industrialization, and of course effects of global warming. Human activities such as oil and diamond explorations as well as such recreational sports as snowmobiling have greatly contributed to these causes. As the Canadian Geographic Magazine suggests, the main goal of caribou management should be to manage these human activities. Some analysts believe that the future of the North and the future of the caribou are one in the same. A July 2010 CBC report found restaurants in Yellowknife and Iqaluit have limited caribou to offer secondary to declining numbers of the species and government imposed hunting bans. The owners are finding it extremely expensive to provide caribou meat and are therefore turning to Alberta bison as an alternative Canadian meat to please the tourists.
Migratory Woodland Caribou
Also called Forest caribou, Woodland caribou were originally widespread in Canada and seen as far south as New England, Idaho, and Washington. They have since disappeared from these southerly areas however are still abundant in Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Quebec, and can also be found in northern Ontario. During spring migration, Woodland caribou can be seen forming herds of 50 000 to 500 000. Although these numbers seem high, the overall population of Woodland caribou are showing a decline which has been at the attention of the Newfoundland and Labrador government for the past five years.
Characteristics of the Caribou
In general, the more northern populations (Peary caribou) are whiter and smaller than the southern species (Woodland caribou) who are larger and darker. Specifically, females can weigh 80 to 135 kg and measure anywhere from 162 to 205 cm in length. Males or bulls measure 180 to 214 cm in length and can weigh 92 to 210 kg. Both genders grow antlers which is unique to this animal, the males being larger in size. The caribou's diet consists of lichens, leaves of willows and birches, sedges and other grasses, flowers, and mushrooms. Occasionally they may also feed on lemmings, arctic char and bird's eggs. Caribou have wide concave hooves that are ideal for travelling through deep snow and scraping for their food. They also are known for their hollow hair that helps to keep them warm as well as give them buoyancy when swimming. Caribou are able to swim at speeds of 6.5 to 10 km/h and run at speeds of 60 to 80 km/h. Predators of these animals include: golden eagles, wolverine, brown and grizzly bears, grey wolves, coyote, and lynx.
Cultural and Historical Significance of the Caribou
In Canada, the caribou is of national significance as it is depicted on one side of our quarter. It is also on the coat of arms for Nunavut as it is a major source of substance for Canadian Inuit and First Nations.In Newfoundland and Labrador, the caribou is named the official animal as it can still be found in abundance in the wild.
Caribou or domestic reindeer has a lighter taste than some other game meats as it is naturally organic. This means that it has been feeding on grasses and plants as it would in the wild, giving their meat a great deal of nutrients and very little fat. Cooking this meat therefore should be done under low heat and with great attention not to overcook. We recommend rare to medium-rare as it will quickly dry out and loose its rich flavour if done too well.