Vic Robertson
Increasingly strong demand for farmed venison is putting pressure on the supply chain, according to the industry.
Venison, which is high in iron and low in fat, is commonly being seen by consumers as a healthy food option which, combined with an effective farm assurance scheme, has prompted repeat purchases.
Meanwhile, ex-meat plant prices for UK product have also risen by up to 10% and the supermarkets want more.
With only 300 farmers in the Britain registered as producers and a national herd of just 36,000, the ability to lift supply is limited in the short term.
However, it is anticipated more farmers will begin to look to deer farming as a diversification, and while some members of the British Deer Farmers Association see it as a threat, others, including chairman Tony Armitage, see it as an opportunity.
"It seems as though consumers are getting the venison message and there is a desperate shortage which we have to aim to meet."
He said that farmers who may have been put off in the past, due to high costs and the operation of the subsidy system, may now be willing to take it up.
Scott Calderwood, general manager of Scottish Farmed Venison, which supplies Sainsbury and Safeway, said it was aiming to double throughput to 3,000 head next year. "Demand is currently running well ahead of supply and prices are up 5-10% on the year. It's all going in the right direction and there is plenty of room for expansion for the forseeable future."
Devon based meat plant operator Lloyd Maunder said demand was up, but supply was coping. "In the current season, British supplies do fulfil our fresh range requirements. However, opportunities are inhibited by limited seasonal supply," said a spokesman.