Call to arms for venison

UK venison producers were told to get the message out to retailers and consumers about the benefits of eating venison at a recent industry seminar.

Members of the deer farming community gathered in London to hear speakers at the launch of the results of a three-year research programme into the industry, led by environmental consultant ADAS alongside the British Deer Farmers’ Association.

As part of the ‘Improved Venison Quality’ LINK Project, delegates were given the results of a consumer survey, which showed a growth in people eating venison at home from 46% in 2006 to 55% in 2008.

Deer farmer and abattoir owner Dick Elmhirst, of the Round Green Deer Farm in near Barnsley, said: “Venison can give a better return than most beef and sheep systems.”

Elmhirst added that there was no specific season for farmed venison and, at present, three-quarters of UK supermarket demand is supplied by New Zealand, but that many British farmers were hesitant to enter the market because of a “fear of the unknown”.

Results presented by ADAS policy delivery group manager Mervyn Davies showed that consumers would also welcome more information about the meat, with 81% of respondents stating they would welcome more information on recipes and 94% saying they would consider purchasing venison in the future after tasting the product. Davies said: “Those who eat venison like it and potential exists among non-consumers.”

Waitrose agriculture manager Duncan Sinclair concluded that there are many opportunities for venison, especially with the renaissance in scratch cooking and a demand for innovative recipes among consumers. Scientific research also showed that venison contained considerably less fat than other red meats.