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The Crossroads of Wild Venison Production: Challenges as December 2023 Approaches

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Article by:
Nick Rout, Head of Education and Training , British Deer Society

The Crossroads of Wild Venison Production: Challenges as December 2023 Approaches

As we approach the end of 2023, wild venison production is encountering challenges that demand our attention. Reports indicate that game dealers are currently paying between 50p and one pound per kilogram for deer carcasses, with some dealers already stating they will not be accepting carcasses during the upcoming month of December. To shed light on the situation, Nick Rout, Head of Education and Training at the British Deer Society and a manager of deer on various estates in East Anglia, shares his insights into the complexities surrounding venison production.

Diverging Objectives

Rout highlights the dual challenges faced by those involved in deer management. On one hand, there is a call to drastically reduce the deer population on a landscape scale to preserve biodiversity in the countryside. On the other, there is a simultaneous expectation to produce a high-quality food product. This presents a paradox as venison often commands a higher price than similar cuts of farmed meats at the point of sale.

Infrastructure Costs and Quality Assurance

A significant factor influencing the venison industry is the proposed British Quality Wild Venison assurance scheme. The infrastructure costs associated with meeting the stringent requirements of this scheme, including recovery, transport, and storage, can exceed £50,000. This financial burden poses a significant challenge for suppliers to Approved Game Handling Establishments (AGHEs), who can see little prospect of recovering the investment. The question arises – is the investment justified?

Rout emphasises that when considering the demands of both population management and food production, it is time for a closer examination of the role of “recreational stalkers” in the industry. These individuals, often dismissed as pursuing deer management simply as a hobby, play a crucial role that extends beyond recreation. The government and related agencies need to recognise the accomplishments of these stalkers, as their input is vital to mitigating the challenges surrounding deer.

Incentivising Stalkers and Redefining Rewards

Rather than solely rewarding landowners for deer management, Rout suggests a shift toward incentivising the stalkers directly. This involves acknowledging the time, effort, and results achieved by these individuals. The traditional approach of subsidising AGHEs may not be the best solution, as they may lack the capacity to manage a potential doubling of production without substantial investment. Furthermore, handling small carcasses, such as muntjac and water deer, may prove unprofitable for AGHEs who understandably may prefer to deal primarily with larger carcasses and benefit from an economy of scale.


As December 2023 approaches, the venison industry finds itself at a critical juncture. Balancing the demands of deer population management and high-quality food production, while navigating the financial challenges associated with quality assurance schemes, creates specific challenges and the situation requires a comprehensive re-evaluation of the industry’s dynamics. Recognising the essential role played by recreational stalkers and implementing incentives that align with their contributions may hold the key to addressing the current issues and ensuring a sustainable future for venison production in the UK.

Support BDS

The British Deer Society is a charity that passionately strives to increase awareness and deepen understanding regarding deer, their welfare, and effective deer management. In the face of numerous challenges, some of which lack straightforward or swift resolutions, we are unwaveringly committed to speaking up for deer.

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