Canned Reindeer Meat Is A Very Real Thing

Canned foods have long played an important role in American food culture. Popeye famously downed cans of spinach in order to gain his superhuman strength, the casserole craze of the post-war years leaned heavily on canned Cream of Mushroom soup, and tinned fish is having a moment right now.

If you can imagine eating it, it's likely it comes in a can. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's good, and there are some canned things that are better buys than others. Spam, for example, could easily be considered one of the more controversial canned foods.

There's another canned meat, though, that might dethrone Spam as the king of controversial canned foods, and you'll probably want to hide this fact from your kids. It's canned reindeer. Sorry, Rudolph.

Yes, reindeer. What in America is a cuddly, antlered creature of holiday tales is actually an important dietary resource for many cultures of the far northern hemisphere.

Reindeer is a common food in Scandinavian countries

You might not find them in the frozen food section of Ikea, but reindeer meat is a pretty common staple of Scandinavian cuisine. You can easily find cans of things like reindeer meatballs in supermarkets across Norway, Finland, and Sweden.

Before you recoil in horror, you might want to take a moment to check your American dietary privilege. Eating reindeer isn't that much different from eating deer, the most commonly hunted animal in America. In the United States, we consume around 30 billion pounds of beef a year, but for Hindus, cows are considered sacred symbols of life that should be revered.

Eating reindeer is a great example of a society that is subject to harsh environmental conditions (such as the frigid, long winters of the far north) adapting its diet to take advantage of its surroundings. You can even find reindeer as a pizza topping in Finland.

So add reindeer to the long list of foods that we humans have thought to can. It might not be available at your local grocery store yet, but it's a staple of Scandinavian cuisine and an important dietary protein for millions of people. No word yet, though, on what happens to Santa's reindeer when they reach retirement age.