Reindeer For Christmas?

Following frequent visits to Sweden over the last few years I have developed an appetite for reindeer meat, whether it's a reindeer burger prepared by my friends Carina and
Ragnar for a snack on the flight home or one of Caria's tasty reindeer stews in the comfort of their Enskede home. But what about reindeer carpaccio? Will Rudolph be on your festive menu this Christmas?

Reindeer meat, which is low in fat and high in nutrients, is a staple in Scandinavia and they have been eating it for centuries. There, it is served raw and also used for sausages, burgers, meatballs, steaks and stews. Between 50,000 and 60,000 reindeer are slaughtered in Sweden each year and demand currently outstrips supply. According to recent press reports it is now growing in popularity in the UK. So if you are searching for something a little bit different to offer at Christmas parties this year, you can do no better than select some reindeer meat.

Supermarket chain Lidl is hoping its reindeer carpaccio might fit the bill. Packs of the lightly smoked, cured meat, priced at £4.99, go on sale next week on November 27. The new product is part of the ‘Deluxe’ range that the German discount store hopes will draw in festive shoppers. Their new lines also include whole serrano hams at £39.99, gingerbread houses at £4.49, a whole lobster for £5.99, scallops at £3.99 and champagne at £11.99. I've read that Lidl was the first UK chain to stock reindeer - selling steaks for the first time in 2010 - and the brand believes we are now ready to eat the meat in its un-cooked form. A spokesperson from Lidl is reported to have said: "Our reindeer meat has been enormously popular with our customers ever since we launched it in 2010, with sales increasing steadily over the last four years.This year, we are replacing the reindeer steaks with smoked reindeer slices, which are similar to carpaccio, and they've already been creating a storm of interest.''

Likewise, restaurants are getting in on the act, too: pop-up Deluxe, on London's Brick Lane, has included smoked reindeer with pickled blackberries on its Christmas menu.

The popularity of the meat has soared in recent years with increased awareness of its health benefits. A recent study from the University of Tromsø found that the level of essential fatty acids in reindeer meat is comparable to seafood such as cod, crab, mussels and oysters. You'll also get your recommended daily recommended dose of omega-3 and 6 in 100g of reindeer meat and it's as low in fat as chicken.

But not everyone is in favour of seling the meat: animal welfare campaigning group Viva claims that the wild predators of reindeer, such as wolves and bears, are shot to protect supplies for retailers. However Lidl insists that its reindeer meat is sourced only from producers who abide by EU animal welfare standards.

Still tempted? I am, and if you do give it a go this festive season, just be sure not to tell the children it's Rudolph on the plate!


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