A Unique Second Career: Elk Antler Gifts

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After a farming accident cost Roger Warkenthien the use of his legs, he began making small gifts on a lathe. He now uses elk antlers as a raw material, and his gifts are marketed online along with the lean and healthful elk meat.

After a farming accident some 10 years ago cost Roger Warkenthien the use of his legs, he needed a second career, so he began making small gifts on a lathe. He started with wood but now uses elk antlers as a raw material.

Why elk antlers? “The gifts look nice,” Warkenthien explained, “and they’re a conversation piece. It’s interesting to see something made out of antler.”

So he makes pens, kaleidoscopes, key rings, letter openers, money clips, salt and pepper shakers and other small gifts from elk antlers. His elk antler gifts are marketed through http://www.elkmeatshop.com, where health-conscious shoppers can buy steaks and roasts, burgers, sausages and other cuts of elk meat, which has less fat and fewer calories than turkey, chicken, beef, pork, buffalo or salmon.

Warkenthien had long wanted to learn wood-turning on a lathe, but until his accident his farm work kept him too busy. A friend taught him the basics, and he took it from there. “Then I saw an advertisement for a pen made out of antler,” he said. “So I tried that and it worked out good. With the right kind of antler, it makes a nice smooth pen.”

His neighbor Linda Karber was successfully marketing her elk meat over the web, so the antler gifts made a logical addition.

Karber had opened http://www.elkmeatshop.com in 2000, and her business had built steadily since then as health-conscious eaters became more aware of the benefits of elk meat. “It’s not only healthy, but it tastes great and is environmentally friendly, because elk farming has a minimal impact on the land,” Karber explained.

In addition to antler gifts, the web site offers jewelry made from the elk’s two ivory teeth, which are its uppers.

The cuts of meat available include steak and roasts, elk burger, brats, breakfast and summer sausage, pickled Polish sausage, jerky, pepper sticks, liver, ribs, and soup bones. Many of the web site’s customers have started buying half or whole elk, butchered to order.

Elk meat is leaner than the meat of domesticated animals like cattle, which have been bred to encourage the marbling of fat, Karber said. “But the tenderness of elk meat is similar to that of domesticated animals as long as it’s not overcooked,” she added. “The elk meat should be cooked slowly in moist heat.”

The elkmeatshop.com website contains numerous recipes and cooking instructions.

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Linda Karber
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