Why Don’t Americans Eat Reindeer?

Why Don’t Americans Eat Reindeer?

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Reindeer meat could’ve entered North American cuisine and culture, but our turn of the century efforts to develop a reindeer industry were stymied by nature, the beef lobby, and the Great Depression.

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FYI: We try to leave jargon out of our videos, but if you want to learn more about this topic, here are some keywords to get your googling started:

Reindeer – the smaller, (semi-)domesticated version/subspecies of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus)
Caribou – the wild, north American subspecies of Rangifer tarandus (Rangifer tarandus granti and others).
Wild reindeer – the wild, European/Asian subspecies of Rangifer tarandus.
Herding – bringing animals together into a group, maintaining the group, and moving the group from place to place
Rain-on-snow event – exactly what it sounds like! Rain that falls on snow, freezes into a thick layer of impenetrable ice over pastures, and causes mass starvation of reindeer (or caribou)

Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer: Alex Reich (@alexhreich)
Script Editor: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
Video Illustrator: Ever Salazar (@eversalazar)
Video Director: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
Video Narrator: Kate Yoshida (@KateYoshida)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Emily Elert, Peter Reich, David Goldenberg
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:

Image Credits: Rangifer tarandus – Alexandre Buisse


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If you liked this week’s video, we think you might also like:
Alaska Fish & Game Dept website for “Santa’s Reindeer” species –

A virtual guide to reindeer and the people who herd them –

The Great Canadian Reindeer Project –

How one storm killed 61,000 Russian reindeer in 2013:



Special thanks to Professor Greg Finstad of the University of Alaska Fairbanks for lending his advice, expertise, and patience to the making of this video!

Christie, A., & Finstad, G. L. (2009). Reindeer in the “Great Land”: Alaska’s Red Meat Industry. Journal of Agricultural & Food Information, 10(4), 354-373.

Daniel, C. R., Cross, A. J., Koebnick, C., & Sinha, R. (2011). Trends in meat consumption in the USA. Public health nutrition, 14(04), 575-583.

Dubner, S. J. (2010, December 9). Beef or Chicken? A Look at U.S. Meat Trends in the Last Century [Blog post]. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from

Finstad, G. L. (2016). Personal Communication.

Finstad, G. L., Bader, H. R., & Prichard, A. K. (2002). Conflicts between reindeer herding and an expanding caribou herd in Alaska. Rangifer, 22(4), 33-37.

Finstad, G. L., Kielland, K. K., & Schneider, W. S. (2006). Reindeer herding in transition: historical and modern day challenges for Alaskan reindeer herders. Nomadic Peoples, 10(2), 31-49.

Stern, R. O., Arobio, E. L., Naylor, L. L., & Thomas, W. C. (1980). Eskimos, reindeer, and land.

Willis, R. (2006). A New Game in the North: Alaska Native Reindeer Herding, 1890–1940. Western Historical Quarterly, 37(3), 277-301.

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