By Farmers Weekly staff

QUALITY-ASSURED British farmed venison is replacing cheaper imports on some supermarket shelves.

South Yorkshire producer and wholesaler Dick Elmhirst, a partner in the Northern Venison Co Ltd, told would-be deer farmers attending an open day in Staffordshire that the venison market was moving into an exciting new phase.

He said the British Deer Farming Associations quality assurance scheme was providing the reassurances supermarkets and consumers wanted about welfare and production methods.

“We cannot compete with imports from New Zealand and Spain on price, but the assurance scheme has given us a wonderful marketing opportunity,” said Mr Elmhirst, of Round Green Farm, Worsbrough.

“Producers are getting lower returns than in the past and some people are getting out. But prospects are good for efficient new farmers as long as their numbers grow with the market.”

John Fletcher, BDFA chairman, said years of hard work had succeeded in differentiating farmed and wild venison and this was reflected in the retail price.

Now consumers and those who supplied them had to be convinced that the quality-assured British product was special and worthy of a premium price.

“The quality assurance scheme is something we can hang our hats on,” claimed Dr Fletcher.

“We have to all work together to get the message across that we have an uniquely lean, low cholesterol healthy meat produced on farms with very high welfare standards.”

The shortage of farmed venison in the EU also created export opportunities.

But potential producers were warned that there were worries about the impact of rising veterinary and meat hygiene service charges on low-throughput abattoirs, and the collapse of the skin market.