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Last week, my husband shot his first elk on the ranch. It was close to sunset, and we had been stalking a herd of about 150 animals for some time. The scenery could not have been more spectacular. The Bitterroot Mountains were snow-capped across the valley, and sounds of cows mewing and young bulls sparring filled the air.

It was a good shot, and the bull died almost instantly. Neither of us took any joy in killing this beautiful animal, but we were grateful for the opportunity to fill our freezer with meat from an animal that had lived a free, wild life, far removed from the confinement and ritual slaughter that is the fate of most livestock. A bull elk can provide up to 200 lb. of butchered meat, and it was fascinating to learn what cut comes from which part of the animal. I was surprised how soft the hide was, and we decided to have it tanned so that this animal will both nourish us and keep us warm this coming winter. We left the antlers in the field, where they will provide calcium and other minerals to all the rodents who gnaw on them. The smorgasbord of entrails will nourish ranch-dwelling carnivores, such as coyotes, mountain lions, bears and wolves.

Photo by Alan Ramsey

I grew up eating liver pâté in Sweden and have vivid memories of my dad making it from pig livers. I figured I would give elk liver a try and was surprised how many recipes I found online. I decided on one that included onions and garlic, as well as Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and sherry (http://ohboykarencooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/antelope-liver-pate.html). The wonderful thing about liver pâté is that it is both great tasting and great for you. Because the liver is vital in detoxifying substances, there is a misconception that liver contains a lot of toxins. Nothing could not be further from the truth: liver pâté provides all the necessary B vitamins and an abundance of vitamin A, folic acid and iron. Who knew that this MPG Ranch elk would offer so many essential things?

I am eternally grateful to that elk for the sustenance it has provided us, and we will continue to learn how to make more and better use of all that wild game meat has to offer.

Elk pâté

About the Author

Ylva Lekberg

Ylva graduated from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with a M.Sc. in Biology and Horticulture in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow have allowed her to explore the role of mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in journals such as Ecology, Journal of Ecology and New Phytologist.

Ylva currently works at MPG Ranch as a soil ecologist. She explores the role of mycorrhiza in the success of exotic plants and examines the use of specific pathogens to combat invasions. In her spare time Ylva mountain-bikes, plays soccer, and maintains a large vegetable garden.