Reindeer meat researchers collaborate across national borders

A small but historic meeting took place in Oslo in May 2008 when a group of reindeer meat researchers met to discuss a number of issues involved in their research.

The group consists of four female researchers, who are among the few in the world who are expert in this area.

A gathering of solid competence

Taking part in the meeting was the experienced Swedish researcher Eva Wiklund, who has been working with reindeer meat for almost 20 years and knows more about its quality than anyone else in the world. She has worked in both Sweden and Alaska and is at present engaged in research at the agricultural research institute AgResearch in New Zealand. Maria Mielnik of Matforsk – Nofima Mat has been researching into reindeer meat quality since 2005, including into how reindeer meat differs from other types of meat. Professor Bjørg Egelandsdal of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences specialises in meat, has been encouraging more students to become interested in game and reindeer meat and is keen for us to improve our knowledge of "genuine Norwegian" raw materials and food products. She has encouraged several students to write their master’s degree theses on game. In her master’s degree thesis, Ellen Cecilie Triumf compared the quality of farmed venison from New Zealand with the quality of reindeer meat from Finnmark in Norway.

Ideas for further collaboration

The meeting covered methods of slaughter, transport systems, the significance of feed, the special health promoting components found in reindeer meat and differences in taste between different types of processed reindeer meat. Eva Wiklund has found that the special composition of the muscle fibre of reindeer meat that affects tenderness is something worthy of further research.

The researchers agree that the time is ripe for setting up a quality system for reindeer carcasses in Norway, just as for other types of animals and as is done for deer in other countries. The next time the four researchers meet will be at the conference of the Nordic body for reindeer research in January 2009.

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