- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska inmates at a prison work farm are taking on a new assignment: butchering the meat of moose struck by trains each winter along 68 miles of track.

The meat will be processed by prisoners at the Point MacKenzie Correctional Farm, then distributed to soup kitchens and other charities serving the needy, under a joint effort by the state Department of Corrections, Alaska Railroad and Food Bank of Alaska.

“Moose meat is, like all protein in the food banking business, just like gold,” said Merri Mike Adams, development director for the Anchorage-based food bank.

“We don’t want to give the impression that we’re celebrating moose being killed. But if it’s going to happen, then let’s not waste the meat,” she said.

The track north of Anchorage where moose will be collected has the highest number of kills in the railroad’s 611-mile system, officials said. Snow accumulates so deeply that many of the half-ton animals wander onto the plowed tracks — and into the path of trains.



Last year, trains killed 183 moose statewide. Of those, 63 were in the new project corridor.

The railroad participates in a state-organized roadkill program that provides moose to poor Alaskans, but sometimes no one collects the carcasses and the meat goes to waste.

“No one ever wants to see moose hit, but at least now we’ll see a more effective method of distributing the meat,” railroad spokesman Tim Thompson said.

A 640-acre inmate work farm, a minimum security facility for lower-level offenders, in the same region as the track has a meat-cutting room for training inmates the butcher’s trade.

Under the agreement reached last week, railroad workers will take moose carcasses to the nearest crossing, where inmates supervised by a corrections officer will pick up the dead animals. The collection job likely will take three inmates, who will use a winch to lift the moose, said Joe Schmidt, superintendent of the work farm.

Prisoners will grind the moose meat and divide it into one-pound packages for the food bank to distribute among some of the 300 charities it serves across the state. A 1,000 pound moose can yield more than 300 pounds of ground meat.

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