By: Joseph Wayment
For nearly two decades, the folks at Lava Lake Ranch have dedicated themselves to providing people with nutrient-rich, world-class protein in the form of all-organic, grass-fed lamb. “We believe that in a perfect world, everyone would have access to high quality protein, including high quality red meat. So everything that we sell under the Lava Lake Lamb® brand is 100 percent grass fed and finished,” said owner of Lava Lake Ranch, Brian Bean. Therefore, the staff at Lava Lake was delighted when in early October they had the opportunity to continue that tradition in an exciting new way. Following the issuance of a kill permit by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Lava Lake’s ranch foreman, Pedro Loyola, harvested an elk on the company’s lands, allowing them to donate over 100 lbs. of elk meat to the Hunger Coalition in Bellevue. “We were delighted to donate the meat, and this was a little ground breaking from our perspective, because we’d not done this before,” Bean noted. “In fact, until late in the season in 2014 it was not possible to do this.”
The reason that such a donation was not possible in prior years was that the law stipulating the donation of wild game did not provide clear enough instructions for food banks and donors to act upon. “With the initial law, there wasn’t language explaining what food banks need in order to accept the food, or what donors need to do in order to process the food correctly and get the food to us,” said Mike Sharp, Public Relations Coordinator for the Idaho Food Bank.
So, although the staff at Lava Lake Ranch had communicated to the Hunger Coalition their desire to make a donation of wild game early in 2014, the law’s ambiguity negated the possibility of such a donation occurring. Fortunately, collaborative efforts between Jeff Schroeder of Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry, Jackie Yarbrough of the Idaho Food Bank, and Idaho legislators led to a revision of the rules which compose the wild game donation law. “This [revision] added very clear language that informed people who are hunting legally how they can donate,” Sharp said. The following are the revised guidelines that the Idaho Food Bank provides to its partners:
Legally harvested and processed game meat may be donated to a food bank or food pantry if:
A. It is processed in a facility that is subject to inspection by the regulatory authority with jurisdiction over meat products.
B. The meat is processed and packaged into portions that require no further processing or cutting by the food bank or food pantry.
C. The meat is labeled by the processor with the following:
1. Species identification
2. The name and address of the meat processing facility
3. The words “Processed for Donation or private use” and “Cook to 165°F.”
The end recipient of the donated game meat signs an acknowledgement statement indicating that he or she is aware that the meat has been donated and that the meat itself is uninspected, wild harvested game meat.
With the above guidelines, donors and food banks can now confidently work together to distribute wild game meat to families in need. “I think the food banks have done absolutely the right thing – they have allowed quality outfits that in fact are inspected to fabricate the meat according to strict instructions – I would encourage every hunter who has had a successful hunt to consider each year the potential to donate meat,” Bean commented.
Bean is not alone in his hope that the new guidelines will allow more hunters to donate some or all of their harvest: “It is pretty rare to actually find these donations from individuals who have actually had the meat processed in an inspected facility,” said Jeanne Liston, Executive Director of the Hunger Coalition. “We’ve had Idaho Fish and Game provide such donations, but maybe once or twice a year they occur. So it’s a wonderful gift and a rare treat for the families that we serve.”
“We hope to continue to be in a position to donate wild meat to the Hunger Coalition. We think they do a terrific job and we are pleased to support them”
For Bean and his colleagues at Lava Lake Ranch, donations of wild game will continue to be an important aspect of their business: “We hope to continue to be in a position to donate wild meat to the Hunger Coalition. We think they do a terrific job and we are pleased to support them,” he said. In fact, such donations have a deep philosophical tie-in to Lava Lake’s very existence as a company. “Let’s not forget that we are in the ranching business,” Bean explained. “We grow food, and we are acutely aware that not everyone can afford high quality food. And in some places – in food deserts – those foods may not even be available. So it is a natural extension of what we do – which is to provide these high quality proteins. We donate meat to a variety of different causes, but there is nothing more central than donating to an organization that helps people not be hungry. Where else would many of the clients of the Hunger Coalition be able to obtain such meat? We are humbled and pleased to be able to play a small role in that.”
Now that the law regarding wild game donations has been clarified, any Idaho hunter can follow the example set by the ranchers at Lava Lake. Liston recommends that anyone needing more information about donating wild game should simply contact Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry, or contact their local food bank. “We at the Hunger Coalition would certainly be happy to provide any information people need,” she said, “but I’m not trying to limit it to just us, because there are lots of other food banks throughout communities that people can reach out to as well.” Liston adds that if the frequency of wild game donations increased, it would allow food banks like the Hunger Coalition to much better serve their communities. “It would be huge. Protein is always the hardest food source to acquire, and it’s the most expensive for food banks to purchase. The need [for food] continues to grow as our middle class shrinks – more people who used to be donors and volunteers are finding themselves in our lines, and I think this is the case across the state and across the nation. So donations such as this are very much appreciated, and very much needed.”
“The need [for food] continues to grow as our middle class shrinks – more people who used to be donors and volunteers are finding themselves in our lines.”
Besides, most successful hunters give portions of their kills away anyway, so why not use that generosity to help local families in need? “People always give meat away – it’s such a celebration when a hunt is successful,” Bean exclaimed. “If hunters need the meat, that is great; but if they are blessed by harvesting an animal that yields more than they have the storage space for – it leaves something for all of us to consider. For the recipients who consume that product, it would be unlikely that many of them would have the opportunity to have that sort of protein, and here they can get it from their local food bank – and how wonderful it is that it’s the best protein in the world!”