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Venison is a homegrown, sustainable and healthy solution to protein shortages

02/09/2021
Christian Nissen, Managing Director of Highland Game

Sector seeks support as Eat Venison Day kicks off Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight on Saturday 4th September

THE UK’s leading wild venison supplier is calling on retailers, butchers, restaurateurs and consumers to support the sector through a critical period by embracing homegrown food and capitalising on its natural abundance and health benefits.

Dundee-based Highland Game, which supplies Tesco, Morrisons, ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Lidl and Waitrose, has grown significantly in the last 12 months.  With category retail sales up 16% year-on-year, outstripping general grocery growth at 11% and red meat growth at 13%, the scene is set for a continued venison success story.

With a growing consumer appetite for this delicious red meat alternative, Highland Game has agreed a new supply contract with Forestry England with the potential to boost volume by 15%. This builds on the business’ existing strong partnerships with Forestry Land Scotland and more than 250 independent estates, supporting a national growth strategy and distribution model for UK venison.

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With an 85% dip in foodservice trade in 2020 due to the pandemic, Highland Game is hopeful that during the recovery of the hospitality sector, consumers will be seeking Venison in their favourite foodservice outlets too.

The business sees the Christmas period as a key opportunity for restaurants to celebrate Britain’s natural larder, with news of labour and product shortages in poultry, alongside health and price concerns of red meat – Venison could well be the answer.

Christian Nissen, Managing Director of Highland Game, said: “All we are hearing about right now is shortages in supermarkets and in the foodservice supply chain, and we believe there is real potential for venison to help fill that gap. If retailers, restaurateurs, butchers and the public get behind venison and celebrate this amazing homegrown product, it could help meet an urgent need.

“Wild Venison is a delicious indigenous meat, super lean and high in protein, sustainable, traceable and relatively inexpensive given its free roaming nature in mostly remote areas of the country. Highland Game guarantees a fully accredited and high-quality wild meat that is free from lead-shot and is second to none when it comes to processing, butchering and distribution. We do all the hard work presenting a product for our retail and foodservice partners, and they get to offer their customers an abundance of amazing produce – it’s a real win-win situation.

“We are about to enter a crucial time for deer culling and venison production – our season runs from October to March. Much of the necessary deer management work was not undertaken last year which leaves too many deer and a potential eco-system imbalance – there’s not enough food to sustain the higher numbers which means higher mortality, suffering and a knock-on effect on land management of trees and crops.”

Highland Game believes that suppliers, retailers and foodservice businesses can work in partnership to keep wild deer numbers stable in order for bio-diversity to thrive, while satisfying consumer demand and tackling supply chain problems.

Christian Nissen continued: “The upward trend in retail trade shows that consumer demand for venison is definitely increasing and we believe butchers and restaurants can capitalise on this, particularly at Christmas when the supply chain challenges for other meats may not have been ironed out.

“Over recent years we have been aware of the obstacles around Brexit and how that would impact supplying our neighbours in Germany and France. As a result, we have concentrated on the home market, de-prioritising the export market because we know what is good for them is better for us.

“We believe venison is a homegrown, sustainable and healthy solution to shortages, and we hope retailers and particularly the foodservice sector will switch on and discover the huge potential of this plentiful meat.”

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