Sales of game meat soared by an astonishing 47 per cent between 2004 and 2006, and the value of the game meat industry is now estimated to be in the region of £57million, according to recent independent research, conducted by Mintel.

Sales of game meat were compared with those of the red meat and poultry markets, which grew by only five per cent over the same period. The research demonstrates that the popularity of game shows no sign of abating, with sales set to increase by a further 47 per cent by 2010, to £84million.

According to the study, four in 10 people now regularly enjoy game meat, which is a low-fat, high-protein alternative to the meats traditionally eaten by UK diners. As well as those already enjoying game, a further one in 10 are eager to try it. Of the game sold, 47 per cent was venison, while pheasant, partridge and grouse made up 31 per cent. ?Other? wild game, including pigeon and hare, accounted for the remaining 22 per cent.

David Bird, senior market analyst at Mintel, said: ?Today?s growing concern about the environment and the negative impact of mass-produced food is changing the kinds of food we buy, with many of us opting for food that is organic, locally sourced or bought from a farmers? market. As game comes from free-ranging animals and is wild and natural, it is a market perfectly placed to take full advantage of this trend.?

Both the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) and the Countryside Alliance (CA) have been running schemes to promote game meat. Simon Hamlyn, BASC?s director of operations, helps to run the Game?s On campaign. He commented: ?The report shows that more than half of all consumers either eat game meat or would like to try game meat, which is very encouraging. Our experience is that increasing numbers of people are more willing to try something a bit different and British game, which is nutritious and healthy, is the ideal choice.?

Mintel worked closely with the CA?s Game-to-Eat campaign to compile the research. Alexia Robinson, of the CA, said: ?This is really great news, not simply for the game sector, but for the shooting industry as a whole. The sustained increase in demand since 2002 has meant that the market has kept pace with the growth in popularity of gameshooting. With shooting becoming one of the most important contributors to the rural economy, it is vital that the marketing of game continues to be a priority for everyone who shoots.?