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Food for thought - the over-supply of game meat

PUBLISHED: 11:11 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:11 12 January 2018

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The oversupply of game meat is a hot topic on shoots this season, and rightly so. Phil Moorsom looks at what efforts are being made to better utilise this healthy food source

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There is no question that interest in shooting is increasing which is fantastic news for the future of fieldsports in the UK. Not only does this help those businesses involved in the industry, but it also strengthens our collective voice to combat those whose ultimate intent is to ban game shooting as a whole.

On almost every shoot we have visited this season, one of the hot topics has been the shift in demand for shot game and how it is processed. With the rising popularity of game shooting, new shoots have emerged and many of the existing ones are moving towards bigger bag days as the business becomes more competitive. The obvious result of this is that significantly more birds are now being shot and have to be responsibly processed. One major supermarket chain is rumoured to have over 50,000 pheasants from last season in its freezers.

Only a few years ago, game dealers were offering up to 50 pence for a brace of pheasants, whereas this year if a keeper is receiving anything at all for his shot birds he is one of the lucky ones. In the future, most agree that it will be the norm for shoots to pay game dealers to collect their shot birds and process them responsibly.

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The commercial shoots putting on large days several times a week must shoulder a large part of the responsibility to tackle this issue. Rumours of holes being dug or incinerators being installed to dispose of shot game is manna from heaven for those lobbying to ban the sport as a whole. The most obvious and simple solution to this issue is for us to eat more game. Thankfully, many of the commercial shoots have now started to address the problem by preparing and selling their own game either as a whole dressed bird or in pre-packaged prepared sauces.

There are also several organisations such as the Country Food Trust (CFT) and Taste of Game (ToG) that are looking at questions surrounding how we process our game meat as well as encouraging us to look at game meat as a healthy, tastier and cheaper alternative to the intensively farmed meats we are offered at the supermarket. We spent an excellent walked-up day in Devon hosted by chef Tim Maddams, a dedicated and active supporter of the CFT, a charity created simply “to provide nutritious meals to people in need”. His enthusiasm in encouraging us to accept game as a part of our regular diet was infectious and we were very lucky to be able to taste his delicious duck and bacon caesar salad and pheasant cowboy beans!

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GET CREATIVE WITH GAME MEAT

On our Rough Rovers syndicate we have always encouraged Guns to take home what we shoot and an increasing proportion of our members are enthusiastic cooks. Last year, at our end-of-season awards ceremony (in my local pub), we introduced a Field Culinary Award, which was hotly contested. However, this season the competition has been taken to a new level and threatens to be the focus of some of our days rather than the shooting!

One member, Mr Grady, although not the winner last season, has raised the bar already, arriving in Powys with his new portable stove and cooking up delicious spiced venison meatballs along with pheasant and venison sausages with a soy and honey reduction. The following week he produced a grouse liver parfait from birds shot in Yorkshire back in August.

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The odds-on favourite this season, Mr Marney, famed for his focaccia, made a huge statement down in Somerset with pheasant and apple sausage rolls, and port and stilton scotch eggs with a goat’s cheese, walnut and fig soda bread. Needless to say, these culinary delights are often washed down with a vast array of homemade concoctions from sloe gin, damson vodka and blackberry whiskey to homemade ciders and wines.

To some, this might all sound a bit frivolous but food is an important factor on the social side of shooting. Whether it is elevenses for the Guns or the beaters’ lunch at the end of the day, the more we get others to try different game meats and recipes the more we can hopefully transfer a wider acceptance of game into our homes and beyond. Replacing chicken with pheasant or partridge and using venison mince instead of beef or lamb mince are very simple adjustments to make to our diet. I have found that many friends and colleagues who do not shoot are delighted to receive a brace of pheasants or partridge in the feather and consider it a treat. I regularly take birds into our workshop and everyone always takes a brace.

There is also a whole barter system that can be utilised too. I regularly drop off half a dozen brace of partridge into our local pub. For every brace of partridge, I receive a free pint – in fact my credit is so good at the moment that we may get a meal for the whole family out of it.

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I don’t want to preach to the converted and I know a very important part of the day for the majority of us is taking home what we shoot. Still, we should try and encourage those who are not so adventurous with their game recipes or tastes.

Christmas is a great opportunity to raid the freezer and cook up some culinary delight. We have decided on a mixed game terrine and haunch of venison for Christmas Eve.

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GAME FOR THE TABLE

A new Facebook group called Game For the Table has been set up, allowing members to share recipes, tips and advice on all culinary aspects of game. With over 3,000 members in just a week, it was an instant hit and is great place to head for inspiration.

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