Game specialist Wild and Game is on a mission to turn the UK into a nation of game eaters. And it is starting with ready meals.
The company has just released a range that includes grouse with mushroom and peppercorn sauce; pheasant breasts with pancetta, mushroom and cider sauce; pheasant breasts Florentine; and pheasant tikka masala. There’s a focus on familiar favourites, priced between £12.50 for a pack serving four people and £7 for two eaters.
Wild and Game’s co-founder Steven Frampton tells Food Spark there are already more products being developed, as the ready meal format should make game meat more accessible to the wider market.
“I think most people who have tried to eat game have found it difficult to cook and quite dry,” he says. “We thought, if we introduce them to cooking game where they can’t go wrong – as you just put the meals in the oven – then hopefully if over time they like taste of the meat, then they will be more experimental and try the recipes themselves.”
Partridge and pigeon
The four meals now on sale were in development for six months, with a number of different recipes trialled, but Wild and Game is quickly following that up with the launch of a pheasant lasagne in a couple of weeks.
They are also looking at incorporating partridge and pigeon in future meals, according to Frampton.
“We really tried to make it something people knew, so the chilli tikka and lasagne are well-known ready meals,” he explains, noting that offering unfamiliar meats in a familiar format should make them more palatable to consumers.
“It does seem strange that everyone seems to think pheasant is a meat for the elite, as it’s accessible all year around, not just during the shooting season, and it’s an underrated meat. I think people don’t realise it’s got a good taste.”
The brand already sells a range of game sausages, including pheasant and pear, pheasant and venison, and pheasant and white wine sauce.
“We have got another five ready meals in development. We are looking at using some of the game sausages in recipes, particularly for winter… and some different products like pheasant supreme and pheasant Kiev,” he says.
While the meals are currently only available on the Wild and Game website, Frampton predicts in the longer term they will end up on major supermarket shelves. For the short term, the target is farm shops, butchers and smaller retailers.
“Our products are supplied frozen and so will be available all year round, not just in the game season,” adds Frampton. “We would love to see game such as pheasant eventually becoming a common sight in UK supermarkets.”
Pies and pasties
Wild and Game also has a selection of pies and pasties that are seeing success. “We are talking to some pub chains that are quite interested in the products, and we are looking to put them into bigger outlets and supermarkets,” he says.
The range includes steak and pheasant sausage rolls; Cajun chicken and pheasant in both pasty and pie format; a pheasant, chicken and mushroom pasty and pie; pheasant pie with a cheese mash topping; pheasant pie with turkey bacon; a steak, ale and pheasant pasty and pie; and a pheasant and steak pie in peppercorn sauce.
Currently the pasties are quite large, but there are plans to make them more suitable for a lunchtime meal to tap into that market.
Frampton says the strategy for the baked goods was to include familiar meats in the products so that consumers would have some recognition and be open to trying it. The manufacturer of the pies and pasties also works with a number of big retailers, which could help to bring them more mainstream in the long term, he adds.
The company has also developed two pates – grouse, brandy and herb, and pheasant, pistachio and port – with another soon to join the range.
In bringing its meals to market, Wild and Game was supported by the British Game Alliance, which is gearing up to launch its Eat Wild campaign in two weeks. This campaign will promote game as a healthy food and will feature chef ambassador Nigel Haworth showcasing the meat.
Haworth said: “As the campaign ambassador, I’m right behind the cause. By promoting game and all it offers, we’re ensuring it has a future – and is tasted, and loved, by generations to come.”
Compared to 10 years ago, there is a good quality supply of game meat, which some studies have shown to be healthier than the standard fare.
In terms of the controversy that surrounds shooting game, Frampton replies that “all meat has to be killed in some way and the life of a game bird is quite an interesting life. It’s wild, it’s feeding on wild fruit and greens and all different things in the country side.
“The birds go out in June/July and are not shot until September, October, November, December and through to January. They have had a fairly good life in the countryside if you compare them to domesticated animals. It’s a better quality of life and it is actually a healthy meat. But it is also a resource that is replenished every year, so they are not destroying the wild stock as they are putting more birds out every year.”
Looking to the future, Frampton predicts a day where game will be accepted as an everyday meat and sold alongside chicken, beef and pork.