Central Alberta hunters who shoot more game than they can eat are asked to turn surplus meat over to people in need through local food banks.
“The hardest thing for food banks to get is meat,” said Adam Mirus, Fish and Wildlife officer for the Olds-Sundre area, who is promoting the Hunters Who Care Association program.
It’s been running in Alberta since 1996, but a lot of regional food banks have barely benefitted from it.
Fred Scaife, executive-director of the Red Deer Food Bank can only remember getting a game meat donation once in his 16 years on the job.
“We would love to get more. I believe very strongly in the program,” said Scaife, who knows the food bank’s aboriginal clients would be particularly grateful to have some fresh game meat in their hampers.
The Red Deer Food Bank would also not have to spend as much donated money on meat purchases, he added. “I think that would be huge — a tremendous benefit.”
The lack of game meat donations from hunters might be connected to the lack of local butchers who are participating in the program. In Central Alberta, there is Kerik’s Meat Market in Olds, First Choice Sausage and Meat in Sundre, and Savoury Meats and Sausage in Sundre who are participating.
Scaife hopes to get more Red Deer-area butchers interested.
Hunters must transport their entire game carcasses to these authorized butchers, along with their hunters’ tag number and the animals’ heart, liver and lungs for a health assessment. (Skinned carcasses need to be wrapped in a clean covering.) And participating butchers need to receive the carcasses within 24 hours of harvest between Oct. 25 and Dec. 15.
Mirus and other Fish and Wildlife officers will help inspect meat that’s donated to the food bank. More information is available from the 24-hour hotline at 780-443-6006.
Mirus would be thrilled if more butchers signed on with the program that pays them for processing whatever portion of the meat is donated to a food bank.
The Alberta Hunters Who Care Association program gets funding assistance from the Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Professional Outfitters Society, and the Minister’s Special Licence Program.
Fish and Wildlife has donated meat seized from hunters to the food bank program, said Mirus. For instance, an elk that was illegally shot on private land without the landowner’s permission was turned over to one of the participating butchers.
Mirus stressed that he doesn’t want anyone to think “we’re going around and picking up roadkill!” All of the meat has to be fresh, inspected for health problems, and processed by authorized butchers.
He hopes anyone who sees a hunting violation will call Report-A-Poacher at 1-800-842-3800.