Forestry and Land Scotland welcomes venison campaign
While many Scots enjoy venison in restaurants and on special occasions at home, a new campaign is urging consumers to make venison a more regular feature in their diet.
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is backing the drive by Scottish Venison Association to promote venison as a healthy and sustainable meat for everyday eating. The campaign is also being supported by Scottish Government.
Venison from Scotland – sold in UK supermarkets and butchers - is sometimes farmed but usually wild. Wildlife rangers working for FLS stalk and cull the deer all year round under licence. The carcasses are inspected, prepared and stored in FLS deer larders before being sold on to an approved game meat handling establishment - Highland Game Limited.
During the pandemic and the lock down restriction, deer numbers in Scotland have potentially grown because some cull targets could not be met. This has been exacerbated by the fact that with restaurants closed, the demand for venison has also reduced.
NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management, Donald Fraser, who also welcomed the move, said;
“Venison, a delicious and healthy meat, is one of the huge benefits that we get from managing deer. This is a useful opportunity to promote an exceptional product and support Scotland’s green recovery after COVID-19.
“Deer need to be managed and reducing their grazing and trampling impacts is really important for biodiversity and meeting the challenges of the climate emergency.”
Deer numbers across Scotland are now estimated to be around 1million, so 2021 will see a concerted effort by FLS to manage deer numbers down to a sustainable level through controlled culling of around 40,000+ animals.
As demand for venison recovers post-COVID-19 both in the UK and overseas, estimates suggest that venison sales this year will generate £1m which will help offset the costs of work by FLS to protect fragile habitats from negative deer impacts. In a normal year, this figure would be nearer £2.5m.
Wild venison has strong credentials in terms of sustainability and traceability, so it’s a good choice for those concerned about the environmental footprint made by their food. It is also a healthy choice, because it is very low in fat while containing a number of vitamins and minerals.
Ian Fergusson, FLS Head of Wildlife Management, said:
“Venison is a meat high in protein and low in saturated fats, and it’s a good source of iron, zinc and B vitamins. In terms of red meats, it is certainly one the healthiest options, and as a game meat, it is incredibly flavourful and versatile for home cooking.
“But one of the most significant benefits of venison from Scotland is its sustainability. Through sustainable deer management programmes such as ours, venison is widely available and the distance it travels from forest to plate, is minimal.”
Dick Playfair, Secretary of the Scottish Venison Association, said:
“Venison is a great product – the healthiest of all red meats – and right now there is plenty of it available. This campaign is being delivered by Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society and the Scottish Venison Association on behalf of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership. It has been designed to encourage those who already eat venison to buy more of it, and for those who don’t yet eat it to try it. We want to bust the myth that it’s only for special occasions and instead venison is for every day.”
Scottish venison is subject to a quality assurance standard by Scottish Quality Wild Venison, which ensures the highest standards of food hygiene. Venison assured by this standard is also fully traceable as every deer carcass is given a unique identifier when it enters the deer larder. The stalker also inspects the carcass before it is sent on to an Approved Game Handling Establishment where it is further processed and inspected before entering the UK human food chain.
Notes to editors
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.