The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Chillers needed to get venison in food chain

The Scottish government must increase availability of deer larders to recreational stalkers to get the most out of the venison they harvest.

Deer shot by recreational stalkers isn’t getting into the food chain because there are not enough suitable larders that can be accessed by the general public. This has been highlighted by the Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA), which has implored the Scottish government to invest more in logistics and infrastructure for the venison market. 

Health and safety is rightly taken very seriously for food products in the UK and venison handling establishments will not accept a carcass unless it has come from a chiller or taken to them directly from the field. As well as demand for greater access to cool storage, there are calls for the government to help strengthen the market for the venison that is already being harvested. 

Jake Swindells, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: “The Scottish government needs to increase marketing efforts and make venison available to the average consumer, rather than it being a niche and expensive treat. Venison is healthy, lean, organic and we have plenty of it. Wouldn’t it be great to see venison on the menu for schools, hospitals, and other community establishments?” 

Six-times UK Pro Stalker of the Year, Chris Dalton told Shooting Times: “The general availability of chilling facilities to the recreational stalker would be very welcome. But before we really explore that, of far more concern to me is the lack of markets. We have constantly been asked to increase the cull across Scotland — but where exactly is all this extra venison going to go? 

“I see little work in the area from our government. Many stalkers struggle to find a dealer who will take their carcasses and when they do the price offered is verging on derisory. And then to tackle the real elephant in the room — the one million deer figure frequently peddled by the Scottish government; this is not substantiated. The only deer counted with any degree of accuracy are red deer on the open ranges and even then, numbers cannot be guaranteed. 

“Most of the ground I manage is in southern Scotland, often commercial conifer plantation — some of these areas I have looked after closely for over 20 years, and I don’t know how many deer are on them. Good luck counting sika in a 1,000-hectare forest in Argyll,” he added.