Could partridge curry and pheasant casserole ready meals be hitting the supermarket shelves soon?
That’s the aim of the newly formed British Game Alliance (BGA), which is on a mission to make game meat more accessible.
In fact, managing director of the Alliance, Thomas Adams, tells Food Spark that such products could be on sale by next autumn or winter.
For the first time, the shooting industry is focused on bringing game meat to the market, says Adams, with the Alliance planning to run an assurance scheme similar to Red Tractor, so that shoots will meet certain criteria in terms of welfare standards, antibiotics and how they handle their game.
Accredited game dealers will be able to use the BGA stamp on their products, while game meat will also be available to purchase on the Alliance website for delivery straight to the consumer’s door.
But what are the barriers to changing the posh perception of game meat?
Getting the lead out
Game shot with lead bullets presents its challenges for selling the meat as lead can be toxic, but Adams says a big part of the strategy is taking the meat off the bone and offering up the thigh and breast.
There is also the use of lead scanners, which can ensure that the products the Alliance is exploring are “pretty much 100% lead free.”
Once that safety issue has been taken care of, game meat can actually have better health benefits than chicken in terms of being high in protein and low in fat, according to Adams.
Plus, there are provenance arguments – an increasing important factor for consumers – and the Alliance will be pushing this sustainable angle as they develop the scheme to ensure complete traceability from egg to supermarket shelf.
Gunning for the market
But what about the fact that shooting animals can make many people uncomfortable? Is this an image problem that can be overcome?
Adams believes it can be tackled by the Alliance and says people who are willing to eat supermarket chicken should really think about eating game as an alternative.
“We are trying to educate people that if they are happy to eat their chicken or beef or lamb –whatever it might be – that in the case of chickens they have six weeks of growth in a confined space, compared to what we are dealing with, which is wild, healthy, responsibly sourced, ethically sourced game – which has had a life, unlike many other farmed animals. If you tap into that then there argument isn’t really there,” he says.
Game, set, match
But it’s not only the stigma attached to game meat’s origins; it’s also overcoming taste perceptions and the way to cook it.
“We have been turfing out oven-ready birds – whole birds – suggesting you cook them with a red wine reduction and five hours later you’ll have your roast dinner, when actually the modern man and woman doesn’t want that,” he says.
“So we need to offer them innovative products that are going to compete with chicken and other alternatives on the supermarket shelfs. It’s just an education process and an offering as well.”
There are many types of game meat that will be receiving a public push from the Alliance, including everything from pheasant, partridge, duck and grouse to pigeon, hare and rabbits.
It’s not just the diversity of game meat that will be explored, however, but also the wide array of ways that it can be used in food.
“There are quite a lot of value-added products people are doing, whether that’s pheasant breast wrapped in pancetta just like your chicken, pheasant goujons, boneless pheasant – the list is endless, because it is exactly like what you would do with chicken or beef,” Adams says.
“So from pheasant burgers to ready-made meals, which is a really exciting opportunity, and from partridge curries and pheasant casseroles which are being developed, so loads of cool products that have never even been entertained before.”
What if demand for game meat spikes – can the Alliance pounce on the popularity, considering it is seasonal?
“It will always be a niche product, as we are not a factory, we can’t meet those levels needed. But that’s exciting that it will be a niche product, which I think plays into our hands, as it’s not readily available all year around. But we can deal with a good surge in interest and demand,” he says.
So is Sparkie game for some grouse or pheasant?
There is a massive amount of game available that goes unused and it underutilised in the UK.
Game shot with lead makes it a difficult sell, coupled with the fact that people don’t know how to prepare game anymore and it can be slightly polarising to the consumer.
However, there are so many benefits to game meat – from health to sustainability. It’s also a cheap source of meat, and if people switch on to game, it’s organically grown, it’s plentiful and it’s absolutely delicious.
If you can take it out of something that is scary for consumers and make it completely accessible to every man, then it plugs into current trends. Wild duck and pheasant are the easier types of game for now.