The drop in demand for venison from the restaurant industry during lockdown is contributing to the UK wild deer population reaching two million, its highest level for the last 1,000 years. Herds of wild fallow and red deer, and thousands of solitary roe and muntjac roam farmland and woodland across the country. The more deer there are, the further they have to roam to find food and more damage they cause to precious woodlands, rare plants, birds and invertebrates This issue was even featured recently in The Daily Mail. And there is also the issue of traffic collisions especially on dark country roads.
As they have no natural predators left, deer numbers would increase by 60% each year if they were not culled by stalkers and land managers. So when we consumers buy wild venison we are helping to protect sensitive areas of the countryside from damage by deer populations that have got out of balance with their habitat.
Venison is also a healthy choice of meat being lower in fat and calories than beef and high in protein and iron. It also has a low carbon footprint (with no crops being grown for feed) and is essentially organic as they forage for themselves. And if you buy from a local game dealer the food miles will be very low too.
Juliette from Savernake Game sells venison to local residents around the Savernake Forest. “All of our stalking syndicates follow a cull plan for each individual woodland that is designed to improve the habitat and environment,” explains Juliette. “And we make sure that the meat doesn’t go to waste and is enjoyed locally for its flavour and health benefits. This year smaller Christmas gatherings that don’t feel they warrent a turkey might be interested in trying venison instead.”
There are many recipes where you can simply substitute venison mince for beef mince, like bolognese, lasagne and chilli. We call these ‘venison but you wouldn’t know it, and are a perfect introduction for first time venison chefs (and you don’t even need to mention to the family what they are eating).
If you are feeling more ambitious, here are some more specific recipes for venison (and there are many more to be found at tasteofgame.co.uk)
This is a tasty dish for autumn. Local venison can be ordered from Savernake Game, to be delivered to your door. Ingredients (serves 6 to
This dish (adapted from a Mary Berry classic) is a top seller on my winter event menu. It feels enough of a treat for a