A NEW initiative to connect butchers with deer stalkers has been launched to boost support for Scottish venison.

With the public's growing interest in sourcing local food, it is hoped that tightening the venison supply chain will ensure that locally produced meat is more readily available, allowing consumers to support local businesses and jobs.

Current legislation allows the supply of small quantities of venison from deer stalkers within their own or their neighbouring Local Authority area or 50km.

Scottish Venison Association chair Bill Bewsher said: “This is a first-class initiative particularly at this time. More applicable to lowland Scotland than to upland estates, although relevant to them also, this initiative is designed to tighten up the short supply chain between stalker and butcher, to cut food miles, to simplify traceability, and to enable locally sourced, healthy meat to be sold locally.

“Whilst not solving the overbearing problems that the deer management sector is facing right now due to the Covid-19 crisis and the impact it has had on the restaurant, catering, and food service/events routes to market which will take time to recover fully, this should relieve a little of the pressure and facilitate supply to local specialist outlets.”

Executive manager of Scottish Craft Butchers, Gordon King, said: “We are delighted to support this initiative which allows local butcher shops to connect with stalkers and sporting estates in their area. This gives us the opportunity to source venison in a short and direct supply chain. Venison is one of Scotland’s truly natural products direct from the glen. In the past few months consumers have really focussed on shopping local and buying local. This also allows them to appreciate that they will also be supporting local businesses and jobs close to home.”

Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon, who launched the Scottish venison strategy 'Beyond the Glen' two years ago, commented: “As we move into Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, Scottish Venison Day gives us all an opportunity to celebrate and promote a quality, local food product.

“It is important that the venison sector finds new ways to strengthen and grow, particularly as we seek a green recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As highlighted in the venison strategy, improving supply chains is crucial to the development of the sector," she continued.

“This is a very welcome initiative that I am happy to support and I hope more people will consider trying locally sourced Scottish venison.”

A recap of the relevant rules and 'Best Practice Guidance' for this short supply chain are being made available to stalkers on the Scottish Venison Association website. There is also new information for butchers including two new videos, one highlighting basic butchery of a roe carcass and the second featuring how butchers can add value to venison in the shop.

The Scottish Venison Association is also offering an introduction service for local stalkers to local butchers and vice versa, and free listings on its 'Where to buy venison section of the website.'

By Claire Taylor

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk