A TOP venison supplier is calling for a multi-million pound investment into large-scale deer farms – as demand for the red meat skyrockets.
Plans for Britain’s first “mega” deer farm in Scotland are well underway, but an expert believes that £10m is needed to build more.
Christian Nissen, who provides meat for many of the country’s supermarkets and top restaurants, says that the government needs to “think big” amid expectation of soaring global demand.
Nissen currently imports about 600 tons of venison from New Zealand per year, and believes Scotland should step up to provide its own meat.
The entrepreneur said: “Why are we importing venison when we have the most fantastic pastures here in Scotland to produce top-quality venison?”
“The fact is that deer farming is not getting anywhere near the level of government funding that is needed.
“We need to think big and more land needs to be turned over to farming deer. A fund of £10m, which is peanuts compared with the overall funding for farmers in Scotland, would encourage more to diversify into deer farming.”
A 1,000-acre site near Edinburgh has been chosen as the location for the country’s flagship deer farm, set to be five times larger than anything that currently exists.
1,000 hinds and 40 stags will rear up to 1,000 calves for slaughter every year – equalling about 80 tons of meat.
But this only represents a fraction of the 1,200 tons needed to satisfy demand in Britain.
John Goffin, who is setting up the farm, said: “The problem is that we can’t keep up with our demand, let alone develop an export market.”
Earlier this year, a report by Mintel, the market research firm, highlighted British game as one of the world’s top 50 consumer growth markets.
The success of venison as an alternative to mainstream red meats has made it a favourite among chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Andrew Farlie and Albert Roux.
According to a recent study, 81 farms were involved in raising deer in 2013 but the number of deer farmed throughout Scotland has dropped from 16,000 in 1990 to 6,000 in 1996 and has remained static ever since.
Ministers have pledged to develop Scotland’s venison sector and are encouraging farmers to produce the meat.
A government spokesman said: “Scotland’s venison sector is playing an increasing role in our food and drink success.
“We have worked to expand support in the new common agricultural policy so that new entrants and others who were wholly or partly frozen out of the old system – such as deer farmers – will receive basic payments at the regional average.”