Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Whale Flesh as Human Food

A very dated post, Paul Brodie, who used to research whales, might enjoy this news story from almost a hundred years ago. Kyukuot is a community on Vancouver Island in British Columbia province in Canada./drf

Whale Flesh as Human Food.
From The Wide World magazine, 1918. Digitized by Doug Frizzle, April 2014.

AT a banquet given recently in Toronto, Canada, at which some of the city’s most prominent men were seated, there was served, for the first time in Eastern Canada, whale steak. It was part of an active campaign now being carried on throughout Canada and the United States to popularize the flesh of this great sea mammal, for the whale, although an inhabitant of the ocean, is not a fish, but a red and warm-blooded animal.
Contrary to their general expectation, both Canadians and Americans have found the flesh of the whale palatable and appetizing. It tastes very much like good beef, though it is coarser in fibre and darker in colour than this meat. This coarseness, however, is not accompanied by toughness—whale meat, properly cooked, is as tender as good beef, and when put on the table without a label has frequently been mistaken and consumed as beef.
The campaign to make whale flesh a common dish is not only based upon economy—for its flesh is now sold in the butchers’ shops in Vancouver, San Francisco, and in other Pacific cities at fivepence a pound—but is a patriotic movement to relieve the food problem. By inducing the masses to eat whale flesh, both Canada and the United States will be enabled to send larger supplies of food to the European Allies, so the whale is to play an important part in helping us to win the war.
There are many important whaling stations on the coast of British Columbia, and in the waters here the following species of whale—the finback, humpback, sperm, and sulphur-bottom—are regularly hunted and killed. Only the very choicest portions of the two first-named varieties have, so far, been taken for human consumption. On an average a single specimen has yielded ten tons of magnificent meat, or the equivalent of that obtained from thirty head of cattle. But experts say that fifteen tons of good meat, or even more, could be obtained from a single animal.
To cope with the demand for fresh whale meat, all the more important whaling stations on the Pacific coast of America have erected special cold-storage plants. On Vancouver Island there are now several such buildings where the huge carcasses can be stored and kept fresh until wanted. The newest phase of the industry, however, is the establishment on this island, at Kyukuot, of a canning factory. Here the meat is being canned, just as salmon is preserved. The company state that their output during the coming season will be thirty thousand cases, each containing twenty-four one-pound tins of whale meat. Tinned whale meat is even expected to reach Europe by the autumn.

Hitherto the whale has been regarded as valuable chiefly for its yield of oil and whalebone. True, the Eskimo and more recently the Japanese have eaten its flesh, but generally speaking the huge carcass was regarded as so much waste. If we now eat its flesh, extract the oil from its blubber, grind up the bones and waste parts into a fertilizer, and convert its skin into leather, not an ounce of these monsters of the deep, scaling anywhere from twenty to eighty tons apiece, need be wasted. Recent experiments have shown that three thousand square yards of the finest and toughest leather can be made from the hide of one of these creatures. In fact, the war has opened our eyes to the wonderful possibilities of the whale in supplying man with food and leather, in addition to oil and a fertilizer for his crops.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.