SCOTLAND’S £12billion* food and drink industry was given a welcome boost today (National Venison Day) as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead announced nearly £100K of new funding and initiatives at a special event bringing together businesspeople in the deer farming sector.
Held at the Auchtermuchty Community Centre, the gathering was hosted by Scottish Land & Estates, which represents over 2,500 landowners in Scotland and featured speakers from Scotland Food and Drink, Seriously Good Venison, the Scottish Venison Partnership plus deer farmers from across the country. The event was sponsored by McArthur Cyclone and Tornado Wire, leading suppliers of deer fencing, in conjunction with the Scottish Venison Partnership and the British Deer Farms and Parks Association.
While the venison industry turnover is impressive and Scotland currently has around 25 commercial deer farms that produce in the region of 50 tonnes of meat per annum, this is low by comparison with New Zealand which produced a massive 22,900 tonnes of venison in 2011/12. With a buoyant home market for venison and growing official support for deer farming, the incentive for more farmers to expand into venison production has never been greater.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead commented:
“Scotland is a farming nation and it is important that we support the deer farming sector and allow it to flourish by attracting fresh talent to the industry. To help deliver that support, we fought hard and succeeded in ensuring deer farmers, new entrants and other unsupported sectors are included in the new CAP from day one.
“There is definitely room for growth within deer farming and I am confident we can make this happen.
“Venison is a delicious product, one which will be enjoyed during Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight. We must use the success of that event to maximise opportunities for promoting Scottish venison”.
With real opportunity for further success, the industry is one of Scotland's biggest employers, with over 330,000 employed at various points from farm to fork.
John Fletcher, a vet, established the UK’s first venison farm in 1973 exporting live deer worldwide. In 2012 he sold the venison business and now produces quality breeding stock. Entrepreneur Vikki Banks bought the business, Fletchers of Auchtermuchty, in 2012 and is developing her ‘Seriously Good’ brand through direct sales, farmers’ markets, major events and social networking.
“The opportunities for diversification into deer farming are vast at the moment and our bespoke venison and game business is growing all the time. We are currently in the process of developing masterclasses in the deer filleting process and have recently rebranded with a view to moving into online sales of Seriously Good Wild Game which includes beef, lamb, wild boar and pork. Since the rebrand from Seriously Good Venison to Seriously Good, sales of venison at markets and outdoor events have increased by 36.4%”.