Demand for Dasher and Dancer at dinner tables strains Finland's reindeer stocks

Suppliers are turning down requests for the exotic meat for fear of depleting the forests

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Sunday 01 December 2013 20:41
Comments
A dramatic increase in the number of people who enjoy the taste of reindeer is putting pressure on stocks in Finland
A dramatic increase in the number of people who enjoy the taste of reindeer is putting pressure on stocks in Finland

Most people enjoy the sight of reindeers at Christmas. But a dramatic increase in the number of people who enjoy the taste of Dasher, Dancer and Rudolph is putting pressure on reindeer stocks in Finland, where suppliers are turning down requests for the exotic meat for fear of depleting the forests.

Worried that they barely had enough animals to meet domestic demand, reindeer producers there have refused a request from a German company for 100,000 beasts destined for the dinner table, saying there were not enough reindeer in Finland, the national broadcaster YLE reported on Sunday.

It is not just Germany left looking elsewhere for reindeer meat: companies from France and Spain had also tried to source the succulent game from the snowy northern European nation. Finland is even struggling to meet its own reindeer needs and has had to import at least 10,000 carcasses from neighbouring Russia, where a million reindeer roam the boreal forests of Siberia.

While reindeer is common on menus across Scandinavia, Britain has taken a little longer to get used to the idea of consuming a staple of the Christmas season with a nice cranberry sauce and dumplings. Five years ago there was an outcry when it emerged that the Swedish furniture giant IKEA was selling salami containing reindeer.

But with the foodie revolution putting game firmly back on the menu at home and in restaurants, the squeamishness appears to have faded. The German-owned supermarket chain Lidl is stocking its shelves with £7.99 reindeer steaks this year after a successful trial run in 2010.

“The demand from our customers has been huge,” Lidl’s PR manager, Clare Norman, told ABC News last month. The chain’s diced Siberian reindeer sold out within a week in 2010 and other suppliers in Britain have also seen demand soar.

The exotic meat supplier Kezie reports on its website that demand for the “tender and succulent” meat is so high that it now offers it all year round, selling everything from reindeer sausages and steaks to meatballs and mince.

Animal rights groups, however, are quick to play up the Christmas link. A spokesperson from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) told ABC that “no one likes the idea of eating Rudolph at Christmas”. Groups like Peta and the vegetarian activist group Viva! also allege that the reindeer are distressed during the hunting process and claim that other wildlife such as wolves and bears are killed to protect commercial reindeer herds. Lidl says all their reindeer products meet EU guidelines for the welfare and slaughter.

Reindeer are found across Canada, Alaska, Greenland, northern Asia and northern Europe. In Scandinavia, they are traditionally herded by the Sami indigenous group, who used to round up thousands of the beasts every year for a migration hundreds of miles north to the summer pastures. The reindeer herds in Finland are now managed by the Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, with the beasts roaming 44,000sq miles – about a third of the country.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in