Caribou is an important part of our Northern diet and culture and has been for generations. Most parts of the caribou are eaten, providing us with a rich source of nutrients we need to help build and repair body tissues as well as giving us energy.
A single animal, the caribou, provides a remarkable array of materials used to provide tools, clothing, shelter and crafts, as well as food. There is no waste of the caribou.
In some areas, caribou hunting is managed to help herds continue to recover and increase in size. For that reason, caribou may not be as available to all northerners as in the past. Check with your Local Renewable Resources Offices regarding hunting restrictions in your area.
What do we know about caribou?
Northerners have traditionally relied on caribou as a major food source. Caribou can be eaten raw, frozen, aged, roasted, dried or made into jerky, sausage, roasts and steaks. Smoking or drying helps preserve the meat and increases the amount of nutrients due to moisture loss during the drying process.
Nutrients found in caribou
Most parts of the caribou are eaten, providing us with a rich source of nutrients needed for health.
|Nutrients Contents per Serving||
|Feet, roasted (75g)|
|An excellent food source means it supplies 25% or more of a nutrient per day||
|A good source supplies 15 - 24% of a nutrient per day||Vitamin A||Vitamin A|
|A fair source supplies 5 - 14% of a nutrient per day||
- Reference Serving Sizes are from Canada’s Food Guide (dried = 35g, cooked = 75g, raw = 90g).
- The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) amounts are based on the needs of a 14 – 18 year old girl.
- Excellent, good and fair sources of nutrients have been standardized for any type of food source.
Did you know?
- Caribou eaten raw, frozen, boiled or dried, is an excellent source of protein. Protein keeps us healthy by building and repairing muscles, skin and blood.
- Caribou liver and stomach contents supply vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin, bones and teeth as well as to help fight sickness.
- Most caribou parts are excellent sources of iron. Iron keeps us from getting tired by making healthy blood that flows through our bodies, giving us energy to be active and grow strong.
- Elders tell us that caribou kidneys are healthy for us. They may have about the same nutrient values as liver.
- Caribou stomach meat is low in fat (14%) compared to store-bought meats, such as beef, pork and chicken (35 – 55%). The types of fats found in traditional animals are also healthier for us as they are usually lower in saturated fat.
- Caribou an excellent source of B vitamins, which help our bodies use the energy from foods. B vitamins are also important for healthy skin, hair, nerves, muscles and healthy growth and development.
Prepare foods safely
Brucellosis is a naturally occurring disease found in caribou. Infected animals may show signs of swollen joints or body parts. The chances of getting Brucellosis are low, but it does happen. If you are handling an infected animal, be sure to follow these steps:
- wear gloves - do not touch diseased parts
- wash hands well with soap and water after handling
- boil knives and other tools after butchering
- do not eat diseased parts
- make sure meat is well cooked, dried or aged
- do not feed diseased parts to dogs
- use clean containers made only for FOOD or meat storage
- meat eaten raw should be harvested by an experienced hunter
|Meat||How to Store||Refrigerator||Freezer|
|Raw||Store Separately||1 – 2 days||4 – 12 months|
|Cooked||Store separately from raw||Reheat cooked meat only once/ keep for 3 days||1 - 3 months|
Prepare foods in traditional ways to avoid too much added sugar, fat and salt. Aging, drying, or roasting are healthy ways to cook traditional meats. Try roasted caribou with potatoes, peas and fruit for desert (frozen or canned when fresh are not in season). Have water to drink.
Hunting and fishing for a healthy lifestyle
Getting out on the land is part of our northern way of life. It is great to be active. Hunting, fishing, gathering, and eating traditional foods helps keep us healthy.
Cadmium and other contaminants may be a concern when consuming certain traditional foods in specified regions.
For more information contact:
- Community Health Representatives
- Registered Dietitians
- Band Office and Local Elders
- Territorial Nutritionist, Department of Health and Social Services
- Environmental Health Officers