Linda’s Mission: Make Elk a Household Word

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Linda Karber aims to make a thriving market for elk meat. That means putting in on everyoneÂ?s list as a healthful alternative to beef, pork, chicken and fish.

When Linda Karber sets her mind to something, she doesn’t stop until she gets it done. Her current mission is to make a thriving market for elk meat. That means putting in on everyone’s list as a healthful alternative to beef, pork, chicken and fish.

Karber has been raising elk for almost 30 years, but until recently her markets have been for breeding stock, for hunting reserves and for the horns, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. When she took possession of a sizeable herd in 1988 as part of a divorce settlement, she knew she had to find more buyers.

“My first thought was, ‘What am I going to do with all these elk,’” she said. “Then I decided to go to work promoting the elk industry. I made videos of all the elk herds in South Dakota and took them to all the major fairs across the state. I wanted to convince farmer’s that raising elk was a great use of their land and show them that elk can be an alternative agricultural industry.”

Karber became active in the South Dakota Elk Breeders Association, but after two years she still had a lot of elk on her hands.

“Some people from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development came to one of my trade-show booths one day and offered to help with a grant for a feasibility study on raising elk for their meat,” Karber continued. “Up to that time, South Dakota had not been a factor in the elk-for-meat market.

“So we learned what it would cost to raise elk for butchering, where the markets are and what the competition is. I tried giving away free elk burgers at butcher shops just to let people know that elk meat was available, but I didn’t make a lot of progress until someone told me about a local woman who does a wonderful job of building effective websites.”

“I can’t go marketing elk meat all over the country, so selling on the web made a lot of sense,” Karber said. It was in 2000 that http://www.elkmeatshop.com was born.

“It took two years before we were in the black, but I didn’t get discouraged because the internet sales built steadily,” Karber explained. “Now I’m raising more elk and sometimes have to buy from other South Dakota producers.”

Karber is finally in the black herself, but she’s not finished with her mission. “Elk meat is the perfect main course for today’s health-conscious eaters,” she said. “It has more protein, less fat and fewer calories than turkey, chicken, beef, pork, salmon and even buffalo. My goal is to make that common knowledge.”

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Linda Karber