SHOOTING IN WALES: Wildfowling
Helena reports from the Game-to-Eat event in Wales, where campaigners spoke of the need to take game meat marketing as seriously as those working in other areas of food production
As I write this in early December, my Facebook page is full of game recipes and pictures of delicious meals using pheasant, rabbit and venison. Hence I was happy to read that the Countryside Alliance (CA) has been busy promoting game meat and cookery to Welsh assembly members.
On 22 November, Rachel Evans, the CA’s Wales director, ran a Game-to-Eat event at the Welsh assembly in Cardiff Bay as part of the celebrations for Great British Game Week. Assembly members and invited guests were able to try Welsh game and also see it prepared and cooked at the event, the third of its kind held by the CA at the assembly.
The event received cross-party support from assembly members Paul Davies (Welsh Conservatives), Neil Hamilton (UKIP), Mike Hedges (Labour), Simon Thomas (Plaid Cymru) and Kirsty Williams (Welsh Liberal Democrats).
Politicians, journalists, assembly members and supporters were treated to a wealth of delicious game cookery by Roger Stevens, an awardwinning chef of the Lasswade Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells, and Jason Lloyd, executive chef of Charlton House Catering and his team. Game dishes on offer included rabbit casserole, duck and pheasant Thai curry, venison burgers and stir-fried partridge.
The game was supplied by Izzy Hosking of Pennant Valley Game. Izzy is a keen shot who has established a successful game business in the heart of mid Wales taking locally shot game and turning it into high-quality game products for sale at farmers’ markets, farm shops, pubs and restaurants. Izzy gave several butchery demonstrations to guests at the event who were able to pick up some helpful tips on how to get the quarry to the plate in record time.
Rachel Evans commented: “Shooting provides a vital financial and social lifeline to much of rural Wales. It is hugely important that we promote Welsh game at the heart of politics here in Cardiff Bay.”
Shooting provides £75 million to the Welsh economy and supports the equivalent of 2,400 full-time jobs. Having cross-party support in the assembly sends a clear message about how important shooting is for Wales.
Jack Knott, Game-to-Eat’s campaign manager, added: “The chefs demonstrated a vast variety of ways to cook game which managed to inspire even the most accomplished chefs among our guests. It was a Welsh showcase of everything shooting and we were rewarded with a fantastic turnout by assembly members and Countryside Alliance members and supporters.”
Tim Bonner, the CA’s chief executive, acknowledges that there are, however, two big issues impacting the game market: “Game is something that people want to eat, but there remains a cultural barrier to the preparation and cooking of game in the home beyond those of us who regularly shoot and eat game. Put simply, people will eat and enjoy game at an event like this, or order it in a restaurant, but cooking it themselves remains a step too far for most.”
Interestingly, he points out that an increasing supply of game, combined with the difficulties of integrating such a niche product into mainstream food production and marketing, has seen the value of shot birds fall. It remains critical, that every bird that is shot enters the food chain.
Tim continued: “We have a responsibility to eat our share and there are many great businesses selling game products at the local scale such as the brilliant Pennant Valley Game. The Alliance has done a huge amount to increase the market for game, but clearly more is needed and we are investigating the development of a game marketing board to uncover new markets for game products in the UK and around the world.
“Nearly every area of food production has such a body tasked with promoting their products, supported by government and funded by producer levies. We believe that the time has come for us to take the marketing of game seriously and commit as much effort to the sale of game as we do to the sale of shooting.”