Extreme Utility
Bear Hunting Magazine|January - February 2021
Jeff Senger kills for a living.
Tim Fowler 

And he is an accountant. He used those financial skills to organize a local co-op to finance and re-open a shuttered 1950’s-built slaughterhouse in a small rural town where farmers were happy to have a local place to ship livestock, and local folks were happy to go back to work. Senger uses his slaughterhouse and accounting skills to get the maximum value of his wild harvest--including two black bears this past year. Nothing wasted. Everything used. Every bit valued. Wildlife conservation tenet number four is, “Wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose.” It seems to me, the corollary to that would be to use harvested game to the maximum benefit. Senger’s slaughterhouse experience informs his orientation as a hunter.

THE INFINITE SADNESS OF WASTED MEAT

Senger has a hard time throwing away half of an animal twice: the first half when the animal is killed, the second half when it is trimmed and cut. When he harvested an ancient gray-flecked bear with worn-down teeth, he wasted nothing. Meat is braised, hides tanned, skulls boiled, and penis bones carefully cared for to add to what his girls call the “disgusting collection.”

“The infinite sadness of wasted food as a professional meat cutter slaughterhouse operator [influences my orientation to hunting]. We founded a co-op to finance a slaughterhouse because I got tired of counting other people’s money as an accountant. If these guys can make money, I wonder if I have the grit. I have the spreadsheets to run the business, but do I have the grit to stick with it no matter what?”

“Something that hit me philosophically on the kill floor is that you kill a beef and throw half of it away when you kill it. Then you hang it in the cooler and lose another 10-15% in water weight. When you put it on the cutting table and trim bones and fat, you lose another 50% of the animal. You throw away half of the animal twice to put a steak on a plate. Go to a conventional restaurant with conventional eaters and they leave part of the steak on the plate for the restaurant to throw in the garbage. That was unacceptable because I’m someone who bears the burden of raising that animal. We do have a mixed farm with a dozen cattle, some goats and rabbits, pigs and chickens so we were learning animal husbandry. It hurts when someone just throws that away,” explained Senger.

This year Senger and his crew harvested three bears in three days. He arrived at camp, pitched his tent, and later thought he might just take a quick drive before dark to have a look to see if there were bears out. Within five minutes he had his first bear of 2020 on the ground.

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