Wild venison pilot secures big wins in the east

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.

forestry commission

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 and extract from woodland without the correct equipment and both quality and traceability could be variable. 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.

Launched in 2010, the Wild Venison Project was an initiative developed by the Forestry Commission East of England, the Deer Initiative, and the East of England Deer Forum. Funded by the European Rural Development Programme (RDPE), the project provided grants for equipment to help landowners and deer managers create a sustainable wild venison supply chain and boost their competiveness.

Since launch, the project has delivered an estimated net increase in venison sales by £693,000, created around 10 new jobs and generated £2.75 in economic activity for every £1 spent.

Mike Cundy, a self-employed deer manager based in Suffolk, benefited from the funding:

“A large deer population can cause considerable damage to woodland habitats, so it’s my job to keep deer herds on land I manage to a more sustainable level while providing local game dealers with wild venison.

“My biggest challenge is storage. I don’t operate a big enterprise and I don’t employ any staff, so extracting, storing and processing meat needs to be done quickly and efficiently in order to provide game dealers – and their customers – with high quality meat.

“The funding provided by the Wild Venison Project has allowed me to invest in new equipment to take wild venison from field to chiller more quickly. As a result, I’ve been able to double the number of deer harvested from 75 to 150 a year, which is a huge improvement and critical for a sustainable supply chain.”

Between 2010 and 2013, almost 50 businesses successfully applied for funding, which was used to provide new equipment necessary to support business growth. The results have been excellent, showing a 233 per cent increase in the amount of wild venison brought to market across the East of England and the creation of almost ten new jobs.

Corinne Meakins, Local Partnership Advisor for the Forestry Commission, East and East Midlands Area said:

“Wild venison is in high demand in the UK. It’s a lean, healthy meat and very popular as a result, but it can be extremely difficult to source and extract from woodland.

“The Wild Venison Project sought to provide funding to deerstalkers and landowners for the purchase of equipment they needed for storage, processing, marketing and transport, and it’s been an enormous success. An independent evaluation showed that for every £1 spent, it’s generated around £2.75 in economic activity across the East of England. “Through this project we’ve been able to address some of the issues created by our expanding deer populations across England. Their numbers pose a threat to the health of our woodlands. Supporting the creation of a sustainable wild venison supply chain with carefully targeted funding helped us to increase the area of woodland managed for deer and provided vital economic opportunities to local communities.”

The Wild Venison Project is now closed but for more information on the results of this project please visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-99HHVD

Funding for equipment may be available from round three of the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) which has been launched by Defra and will close on Friday 4 April 2014. The FFIS is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and is a scheme of support, developed to help farming, forestry and horticultural businesses in England. There may be scope for getting grants for businesses managing woodland for deer if the case can be shown. One of the five themes that are covered by FFIS is Forestry: http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources

Advertise With Us

A great opportunity to promote your business to our dedicated readership of farmers, landowners, estate managers and associated agricultural professionals.
Contact us today on 02476 353537 and let’s work together to drive your business forward.