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Dining on moose nuggets: Yummy or yucky?

Craig Medred
Loren Holmes Illustration

A parent/chaperone and some school officials recently played a practical joke on some students in Manitoba, Canada, and encouraged them to eat moose nuggets, which look a bit like chicken McNuggets -- only darker, smoother and, from all reports, not nearly as tasty.

The prank is causing quiet a stink, so to speak, on the other side of the border. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporations says an international anti-bullying expert was "shocked" by the prank.

"You have braces on your teeth and you cannot get excrement out of your teeth because of what your principal did to you. I mean, that is not a practical joke," American Rosalind Wiseman was quoted as saying.

What might Wiseman say about Alaska parents encouraging their children to try a taste of the firm, brown, oblong pellets that come dropping out of the hinders of moose in winter when the animals eat nothing but the twigs of trees? Yes, this happens.

The moose-poop-eating children in the video are from Wasilla -- home of former, half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin turned failed vice-presidential candidate and big-time U.S. political celebrity. Palin is the self-proclaimed queen of the Mama Grizzlies, who know the meat of the moose tastes good but the excrement really doesn't. Not that it's likely to hurt you. It may even be good for you.

Moose nuggets are really high in fiber, and Americans have always been told they need more fiber.

"Winter (moose) diets are composed almost exclusively of woody browse and are low in digestibility,'' according to "Ecology and Management of the North American Moose,'' the definitive source of information on the big animals. Layman's translation? Most of what a moose eats in winter goes in one end and out the other. The moose's four stomachs take what little nourishment there is in the outer bark of what’s eaten and passes everything else.

Moose nuggets end up being not much more, really, than compacted balls of sawdust with a lovely, earthy aroma. No, no, no, I am not making this up. A company in Montana fell in love with the aroma and now dries moose nuggets and then sells them as incense. How some Montana entrepreneurs beat Alaskans to the punch on this one, who knows? But they did. Maybe Alaskans aren't New Agey enough.

"We have burned our share of Nag Champa and other mainstream ‘cense, and we have experimented with other kinds of animal poop, but only moose poop has that natural willowy/sweetgrass/campfire smell we so love,'' proclaims the website for Moose-sense, which notes, "We are, as far as we know, the sole purveyors of moose poop incense.''

One would be tempted to say "no shit", but that would be in bad taste.

Alaskans, of course, have found inventive ways to market moose nuggets. There are moose nugget swizzle sticks, moose nugget rings, moose nugget earringsmoose nugget tie tacks, moose nugget key rings, and even moose nugget lip chap.

"It won't heal your lips, but it sure keeps you from lickin' them,'' the latter promises. It also warns "DO NOT EAT. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN" even if all it contains is "recycled organic Alaska forage."

Some dogs love this recycled forage. It's probably a little like chewing on semi-digested wood. Some dogs like to chew on wood. Most people don't. And if the reactions of humans who have eaten moose nuggets are to be trusted, you wouldn't want to serve these up as appetizers to visiting relatives, unless you're the sporting sort.

Now, deep-fat fried, maybe. That might be a different matter. Dried moose nuggets might soak up the grease and transform into tasty, fiber-rich balls of fat. If you try the experiment and it works, get back to us.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com