By Stan Friedman
KENAI, AK (November 13, 2012) – The Road-kill Moose Meat Recovery Ministry of the River Covenant Church is probably one of the more unusual in the denomination.
The church started the ministry as a way to help provide food for its people and others in the community, says Pastor Frank Alioto.
The ministry has had unforeseen benefits. “It is also a blessing to have Native students from Alaska Christian College come help out with the process,” Alioto explains. “Harvesting moose was a common practice with their ancestors and somewhat ‘lost’ with many students who come from different villages across Alaska.”
Every year around 250-300 moose are killed in accidents on the Kenai Peninsula, Alioto says. The state allows nonprofits to harvest the meat.
“Up until last year we would receive a call from the Alaska State Patrol that a moose was hit,” Alioto says. “We would assemble our team, hitch up the trailer and set out to find the location of the deceased animal marked on the roadway with a flare.”
The state contracted earlier this year with the nonprofit conservation group Alaska Moose Federation to pick up the dead animals and deliver them to the nonprofits for off-road processing. During fall and winter, the church receives a moose about every three weeks.
“Most calls come in the winter when the moose forage for plants close to the roads,” Alioto says. “The calls usually come late at night or in the early morning when the temps are way below freezing.”
The cold weather helps to preserve the animal long enough for it to be harvested. “Moose are tall animals, so when then are hit by vehicles, they generally break their legs and much of the good meat is still salvageable,” Alioto says.
“Once we have the animal, we ‘vent’ the animal by removing the internal organs and the fur so the meat can cool. While this can be quite a messy process, on a cold night your hands can keep warm while cutting up all the meat.
“We harvest all the edible meat from the quarters, along the neck, and of course the coveted ‘backstrap’ – meat that runs along backbone. A delicacy, especially within the Native population, is the tongue.” Alioto has tanned the hide of one animal.
Processing the moose general takes several hours, Alioto says. “We usually divide up the meat by giving it to the different people who help slaughter it, then to people who need some from the church and also from the community.”