Add one to the list of impossibly gross food items: For a limited time, Icelanders can purchase beer containing ground-up whale.
Whales are incredibly smart creatures, but humans still use them for food, fuel, and other purposes. Their future is in a perennial state of uncertainly. Nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, whales are still hunted by a handful of countries, including Norway, Japan, and Iceland. These countries continue to hunt because of loopholes in the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on whaling.
Icelandic brewery Steðji is flaunting those loopholes with its new beer featuring whale meal provided by whaling company Hvalur. According to the Guardian, the beer is being marketed as particularly healthy because of the high protein and low fat content of whale meal. Steðji also says on its website that the beer will turn anyone who drinks it into a “true viking.”
Whale meal, for the uninitiated, is created during commercial whale processing. From Feedipedia:
During the processing the whale meat is heated using steam and is broken down into a slurry releasing the oil, which is the primary product. The oil is then centrifuged off and the remaining material is divided into liquid and solid fractions. The solid material is dried, ground and marketed as whale meal.
Environmentalists are unsurprisingly not pleased. The Guardian links to the group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, which issued a statement about the beer:
“Sadly, WDC has become increasingly used to Hvalur’s desperate hunts for new outlets for his whale meat,” says WDC’s Icelandic whaling campaign lead, Vanessa Williams-Grey. “Demand for this meat is in decline with fewer and fewer people eating it. Even so, reducing a beautiful, sentient whale to an ingredient on the side of a beer bottle is about as immoral and outrageous as it is possible to get. The brewery may claim that this is just a novelty product with a short shelf life, but what price the life of an endangered whale which might have lived to be 90 years?”
Fortunately, the whale beer will only be available through February for a traditional Icelandic festival. After that, you’ll have to brew your own.