If you are starving in the middle of a survival situation, acquiring fresh, high-quality animal protein might be the difference between life and death.
There are lots and lots of animals out there, but not all of them are good for eating even in an extreme situation. How about an elk?
Among the largest of the deer species and present in many places all around the world, an elk could provide more than enough food for a family or large group of people. Can you eat elk meat for survival?
Yes, you can eat elk. Elk meat is lean and full of protein, vitamins and minerals, making it a great survival food.
If you live in North America, there are only a few states with substantial elk populations so you probably won’t encounter them depending on where you live.
That being said, they might be one of your first and best options for wild sourced protein if you have the skills to find them and bring them down.
Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know about eating elk in a survival scenario.
Where are Elk Found?
A long time ago, elk could be found in abundance all over the North American continent, from coast to coast.
Today, their current range is far, far smaller and much more fragmented, and areas where they dwell in abundance smaller still. Various elk species are also found in other corners of the globe.
Elk occupy a variety of habitats, including forests, mountains, and grasslands, and they travel from place to place in (sometimes huge) herds.
In North America, they are most commonly found in the Rocky Mountain region, though they can also be found in parts of Canada and the northern United States.
In Europe, elk are found in Scandinavia and parts of Russia. They are also found in Asia, specifically in Mongolia and China.
Elk are well-adapted to life in a variety of environments and can survive in both cold and warm climates, and are less heat-sensitive than their larger cousins, moose.
Nutritional Info for Elk Meat
Elk meat, also known as venison just like deer and moose meat, is an excellent source of lean protein.
It is also lower in fat and calories than most other kinds of red meat, making it a healthier all around option as well.
Aside from the excellent macronutrient profile, elk is also rich in vitamins and minerals alike including iron, zinc, potassium and selenium.
Most wild game meats are generally superior nutritionally to our domestic livestock varieties, but elk is in a class of its own!
What Does Elk Taste Like?
Elk is usually said to taste like beef by those who are unacquainted with wild game, and somewhere between beef and deer by those who are.
The taste of elk meat can vary depending on the age of the animal, its diet while alive, and how it was prepared.
Elk that have been eating a lot of grass will have a milder flavor, while those that dined on mostly grain will be slightly sweeter.
In all cases, elk is typically quite lean, so lean that it has a propensity to dry out and become tough unless prepared with care.
Like most other kinds of venison, ground elk will usually need fat or other ingredients added to keep it moist, and prevent it from falling apart.
Can You Safely Eat Raw Elk Meat?
No, you cannot! Elk, like all animals, can play host to various germs, parasites and other pathogens that can go on to infect humans.
Elk meat, like all meats, can be the vector for infection when handled or eaten if not thoroughly and properly cooked.
Some of the diseases that elk meat can transmit to humans include toxoplasmosis, chronic wasting disease (CWD) and E. coli; nasty stuff!
Suffice it to say that contracting any life-threatening disease, or even “just” food poisoning, while already in the middle of a survival scenario could be the thing to finish you off, and at best will make your life and task even harder and more miserable.
The only way to safely eat elk meat is to cook it thoroughly, using methods like boiling, frying, roasting or grilling.
As usual, cooking elk to an internal, sustained temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least several minutes is the best way to ensure that any harmful germs present are killed off.
Is it Okay to Eat Elk Skin?
You can eat elk skin, but the fur makes it a pain to clean and it is not good for eating anyway.
Can You Eat Elk Bones?
No, as a rule. Humans are not designed to eat bones, and even if you were desperate or crazy enough to try you’d risk cracking your teeth, getting choked or suffering internal injuries from splinters, especially when cooked. Not good!
However, the bones of an elk can still provide you with a good boost of nutrition if you can access the marrow inside them.
To do this you’ll need to either crack the bones open with a heavy rock or hammer, saw them open, or else boil them until they are soft enough to break apart.
Once the marrow is exposed you can either eat it straight away, save it for later or incorporate it into the rest of your cooking. It is an especially good way to boost the nutrition of soups and stews.
Is Elk Organ Meat Dangerous?
Not usually as long as it is prepared carefully. Elk organs can be yet another source of meat and good nutrition, but you will want to know what you are getting into.
The choice organs for eating are the liver and heart, but you can eat just about any of them if you have the time and patience to clean and cook them well.
The heart and liver are obviously good eating, but other organs like the kidneys, lungs, stomach and intestines present challenges.
The kidneys are known for being pretty gross tasting if not prepared after careful soaking in water or milk, and the stomach and intestines both must be diligently evacuated and thoroughly cleaned prior to cooking or else the results… well, best not to dwell on that.
Be Prepared for Hard Work when Butchering an Elk
Compared to a common deer, an adult elk can present a huge haul of meat but also a massive challenge when it comes time to clean and butcher it.
A single adult elk can dress out at around 200-300 pounds, and that’s a lot of meat!
The size of the animal alone can make moving it very challenging even for several men, so you might need to plan on doing what you can where the animal fell.
Considering that you don’t want your precious meat to spoil you will need to work fast, and a have a plan for accomplishing the task as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.