Handle with care
There is no reason why game could not be an eco-friendly source of meat as well as a major export product after Brexit, says Vikki Halliday
Arecent social media post showing dressed partridges on the tailgate of a pickup prompted me to engage with the Editor, Patrick Galbraith. My attempt to point out the possible folly of his post regarding food hygiene resulted in an invitation to write about the impact of hygiene regulation as we move towards Brexit.
As a vet with a keen interest in shooting, I feel there has never been a better time to push game to the fore as a sustainable and ecologically friendly source of meat. We should be proud of the quality product of our internationally renowned shooting industry. However, many shoots will have to accept changes in attitudes to health planning, medicine sourcing and general hygiene because as we leave Europe, there is little point in perpetuating the existing two-tier system in terms of hygiene controls.
Currently, you can shoot game for your own consumption with no hygiene controls other than common sense. However, when you supply game in any form to a third party, there are regulations. Supply of small quantities in fur or feather to a local pub will exempt you from many of the food business operator hygiene rules, but you are considered a primary producer in terms of the Food Safety Act 1990 and the EC Regulation 178/2002 on food safety. So you do at least need to ensure the game is safe and fit for human consumption.
If you sell to anyone else — a game dealer, retail establishment or an approved game handling establishment (AGHE) — you need to comply with more requirements in EC food hygiene Regulations 852 and 853/2004. If you want to process game yourself before selling, these rules also apply and you need to register as a food business operator.
These scenarios also require training of hunters to be able to recognise signs of disease in game. At the very least, one member of your shoot would need to have an accredited qualification to prove this.
So how can the game industry move from small-scale supply against a backdrop of our impending move out of Europe? The wild game sector has lagged behind the poultry industry in terms of regulatory standards of hygiene and traceability
“Reared game birds are positively geriatric compared with fast-growing broilers, which are killed at 42 days”
but, arguably, not in terms of welfare. I’d much prefer to know my food was exhibiting natural behaviour in the moments before despatch, than be faced with the less natural alternative of intensively farmed poultry.
With recent research warning of the impact on global warming