Forestry Commission pilot boosts wild venison supply

A Forestry Commission hosted project across the East of England has made it easier for businesses to bring wild venison to supermarket shelves and help address some of the issues associated with a growing deer population in the region.

Despite increasing sales of wild venison, it remains a difficult meat to source. In the meantime, with no natural predators, the deer population has become a significant issue for many landowners and farmers, causing crop damage, road traffic accidents and preventing tree regeneration in woodland areas through overgrazing.

To address some of these concerns the Forestry Commission, in partnership with the Deer Initiative and backed by funding from the European Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), launched the Wild Venison Project in 2010 with the aim to support the development of a more sustainable wild venison supply chain.

The results – as highlighted in an independent evaluation of the project published this week by the Forestry Commission – show a 233 per cent increase in the amount of wild venison brought to market. The report also estimates that for every £1 spent, it’s generated around £2.75 of economic activity across the East of England, and helped support the creation of ten new jobs.

Corinne Meakins Local Partnership Advisor at the Forestry Commission, said: “Wild venison is in high demand in the UK, as it is very low in cholesterol and can be sourced locally, but quality and traceability have traditionally been issues.

“The Wild Venison Project aimed to address these problems and since 2010 the Project has provided 50 local businesses with the funding support needed to make them more competitive. In turn, our aim was to increase the amount of meat provided to supermarkets, farm shops and butchers across the region.

“This project has also allowed us to address some of the problems posed by expanding deer populations across England – and particularly the threat they post to the health of our woodlands. Supporting the creation of a sustainable wild venison supply chain with carefully targeted funding helps us better manage numbers and protect woodland while providing vital economic opportunities to local communities.”

Robert Gooch, Managing Director at the Wild Meat Company in Suffolk, said: “The Wild Venison Project has been vital in helping us to grow our business. Demand for high quality wild venison shows no sign of slowing, but meeting that need can be extremely difficult.

“We received almost £45,000 in funding to help us expand our capacity, employ new staff and improve our facilities to cater for demand. As a result we’ve been able to significantly increase sales and develop entirely new relationships with a number of high profile businesses, including Waitrose, the Co-Op and Budgens, not to mention a range of local farm shops.

“We’re delighted with what we’ve been able to achieve and look forward to continued success in the future.”

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