Find locally raised elk with the Minnesota Grown Directory published by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Choose from elk producers and farms throughout Minnesota. Our online Directory provides quick access to farm details, links to their website and access to Google Maps driving directions.
At one time, native elk roamed most of the state of Minnesota, abundant in the prairies and hardwood forest transition zones of the state. Today, elk are raised by farmers throughout Minnesota. Our state is 1st in the nation in number of elk raised, according to the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.
We spoke with Brenda Hartkopf, the executive secretary for Minnesota Elk Breeders Association, office manager for the North American Elk Breeders Association, and owner of Splendor Ridge Elk Farm in Howard Lake, MN. We also spoke with Mark Lucas from Misery Creek Elk in Hamburg, MN about his experience raising elk and its growing popularity among consumers! We would like to thank Minnesota Elk Breeders Association for helpful information and the photos included in this article.
Since elk are native to Minnesota, they thrive in our cold winters and cooler summers. Mark told us that compared to warmer areas; elk actually will grow larger and perform better in chilly northern climates like ours! Though these animals still have some wild tendencies, Brenda says that raising elk includes respecting and working with their natural instincts. “We know the elk like to move around corners and curves,” Brenda shares, “and we incorporate that into our pasture and farm design.”
Raising elk produces more than just meat! Elk offer a variety of products including meat, antler products, preserve bulls and breeding stock. In fact, Brenda states that elk demand currently exceeds supply. “We need more farmers to get into the business of raising elk! Demand for Minnesota elk products is thriving – so much that there is not enough supply to sustain the huge public demand at this time.” These markets include velvet antler for domestic health supplements and international trade; hard antler for dog chews and international trade; breeding stock and preserve bulls.
Elk meat is lean due to the eating habits of this species. Elk take in a lot of their diet from native grasses, trees, and bushes, and are very efficient pasture grazers. Domesticated elk derive most of their food from oats, grass, and hay. This in turn creates very lean tissue, and a tasty cut of meat!
Cooking with Elk
Elk can be substituted in many other red meat recipes. The Minnesota Elk Breeders Association has a myriad of delicious recipe ideas to try (check them out here). Brenda suggests taking care when cooking elk the first time, as elk is naturally lean and cooks faster than higher fat meats. She tells us, “Shorter cooking times are the key to success.”
Naturally, we had to ask our experts to share their favorite way to enjoy elk. Mark’s favorite recipe is elk tacos. Brenda told us, “Our family loves the simple elk burger; we have them at least once a week. I add a little salt, pepper and diced onion and that’s it. I also love to use the ground burger for casseroles, chili, spaghetti and tacos. There’s a perfect amount of fat to cook the meat and no excess fat and moisture to have to deal with.” Our mouths are watering already, how about yours?
How to begin: