A new quality assurance scheme to help improve the “traceability” of wild venison has been launched in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The new scheme, along with an existing Scottish scheme, aims to increase buyer confidence and support woodland management of wild deer in the countryside.

The UK government believes the new quality assurance scheme will enable the industry to demonstrate best practice for food production.

The aim of the wild venison quality assurance scheme is to ensure that a set of audited standards are met throughout the supply chain – from forests to the processing chain, to supermarket shelves. 

Successful applicants to the new scheme – including venison producers and processors – will support the development of a “wider, more robust marketplace” for British wild venison, according to the government.

UK Forestry Minister,Trudy Harrison, said:

“We must develop ways to manage deer more sustainably if we are to meet our tree-planting targets and protect our precious woodlands and biodiversity.

“This announcement is an important step towards achieving that aim and creating a thriving market for British wild venison.”

Applicants have been advised that they must be able to demonstrate that they comply with all of the requirements set out in the scheme.

These includes ensuring carcasses are handled correctly, premises are registered as food businesses with the local authority, and that standards expected for producing food are met in line with relevant regulations and best practice.

The government hopes that the first quality-assured meat badged under this scheme will go on sale next year.

The new scheme is a cross-sector initiative that has been developed by:

  • Forestry Commission;
  • Grown in Britain;
  • Forestry England;
  • Natural Resources Wales;
  • National Game Dealers Association;
  • British Association for Shooting and Conservation;
  • British Deer Society;
  • National Gamekeepers Organisation.

Richard Stanford, chief executive of the Forestry Commission, believes a healthy native wild deer population, that is in balance with its ecosystem, will allow woodland to flourish and support biodiversity.

“However where there are high-density populations of wild deer these can negatively impact the establishment, growth and biodiversity of woodland,” he also warned.

Stanford added:

“Deer therefore must be managed as part of sustainable forestry in England which will also support the development of the wild venison market as a healthy meat.

“Boosting confidence in the British venison market encourages deer management and is a sustainable alternative to fencing and plastic tree guards in the landscape.”