A new group for the Scottish venison industry has been launched, to increase farmed production of the meat and reduce reliance on imports.
The Scottish Venison Strategy Group is led by Scotland Food & Drink and involves representatives of the Scottish Venison Partnership, Scottish Land & Estates, NFU Scotland, SAOS, SAC and the James Hutton Institute.
Domestic venison supplies are lagging consumer demand, and an additional 1,200 tonnes a year – the equivalent of 25,000 deer – were needed, the group said.
According to the group, retail sales of venison in the UK rose by 34% to £43m between 2006 and 2009. The UK produces about 3,500 tonnes of venison a year, but just five tonnes of that is produced on farms – the vast majority coming from annual wild culls. But cull numbers had dropped in recent years, the group said, meaning increasing quantities of venison were imported from New Zealand to satisfy demand.
It will now devise a roadmap to encourage new entrants into the farmed venison market and commission additional research to better understand consumer perceptions and likely future demand.
Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers said it was clear Scotland was not producing enough venison.
“Wild deer cull numbers are falling whilst demand for Scottish venison is increasing. The only way to meet that demand, without increasing our reliance on imports, is to ensure that production rises.”
He added farmgate prices on deer were “very good” and hoped more livestock farmers would consider venison a business opportunity.
Stephen Gibbs, chairman of the Scottish Venison Partnership, said increasing farmed venison production would take “time, commitment and support” but was the only way to meet growing demand.
“We know the UK market is exceptionally buoyant and we know that our game dealers are anxious to source more home-produced quality product while continuing to import as market growth continues,” he said.
Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead welcomed the creation of the Scottish Venison Strategy Group and said he was confident increased collaboration would ensure production was increased.