Elk industry ailing due to chronic wasting disease
Fifteen years ago, when the elk industry was booming, Terry Porter bought 10 head of elk to raise and sell for meat. Porter started Lite Tracks, a natural food company that sells organic meat, seafood and fruit, at a time when adult elk sold for $5,000-$8,000 and calves sold for $4,500.A few years ago, Porter was one of 170 people in the elk industry and sold 75 percent of his meat online. He did very little cold calling or door-to-door sales.Today, Porter’s elk are worth one-tenth of their original value, only 65 people remain in the elk industry and nearly all of his business is done through door-to-door sales.”A lot of people in the elk industry are really hurting right now,” Porter said.Demand for elk meat rapidly fell with the onset of mad cow disease. Mad cow attacks cows’ brains and is spread to humans through consumption.After the outbreak, consumers were afraid of chronic wasting disease, which is similar to mad cow but affects elk, and stopped buying elk meat, Porter said. To stay in business Porter sells his meat by knocking on doors in Vail and Aspen.”People don’t understand how much it costs to produce elk meat,” Porter said. “It costs about 1.5 times as much to produce elk as it does to produce cow meat.”Porter pays $350 for each elk he processes to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Porter tests each elk for chronic wasting disease, a process that can take a few weeks and delays getting meat to the consumer. Although many in the elk industry didn’t survive chronic wasting disease, Porter has held on and is optimistic about his company’s future.The more educated people become about where their meat comes from, the more interested they’ll be in organic meat, Porter said.Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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