WILD venison is a first class food product, versatile enough to shine in dishes ranging from simple fare to fine dining – but only if it has been handled with care and responsibility, the British Deer Society (BDS) has told over 100 local restauranteurs, chefs and butchers attending a high profile event hosted by the Southern Regional College’s Newry Campus.
The BDS provided the wild venison used throughout the one day butchery and cookery Food Technology event which was held to mark the launch of the college’s i3 initiative.
Wild venison was also the centrepiece of the dinner hosted by the College that evening at which Stephen Farry MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning, was the keynote speaker. Providing the opening address for the day’s practical sessions, Tom Brown, president of the BDS Northern Ireland Branch, said: “The source of wild venison is, of course, wild deer. However, this does not mean that venison is subject to a lower standard of food hygiene than farmed meats such as beef, lamb or pork. Indeed, such are the circumstances in which wild deer are culled it is essential that the highest standards of game handling are applied, to ensure the venison can achieve its full potential in the kitchen.”
The BDS worked in partnership with the college by supplying two wild deer carcasses for the event. The practical sessions featured a demonstration on how to butcher the carcasses professionally in addition to a masterclass in preparing a selection of venison fine dining dishes.
“Wild deer are the largest naturally-occurring wild animals in the UK and Ireland,” said Tom Brown. “They are very beautiful creatures but as they have no natural predators their numbers must be controlled to ensure they can continue to live in balance with their habitat.
“This requires wild deer to be managed by ethical and humane means. The British Deer Society is at the forefront in promoting best practice deer management and provides comprehensive training leading to internationally-recognised qualifications for those involved in this work. This training includes a particular focus on the correct inspection and handling of deer carcasses to ensure that they are disease free and that they have not been subjected to any form of treatment which could result in contamination or spoilage of the meat.”
Tom Brown said that while it is all too easy for this to happen, any responsible deer manager will ensure that the handling of carcasses is scrupulously correct at all times and that all current food safety and legal requirements are fully met. This, however, is not likely to be the case with deer that have been culled by inadequately trained individuals or, for that matter, those involved in the highly illegal practice of poaching.
He added: “Such people are motivated solely by quick profit and they have no interest in best practice. It goes without saying that the way that such people handle venison is unlikely to meet the necessarily stringent legal food hygiene requirements.
“Pubs or restaurants accepting such venison by the back door on a cut price, ‘no questions asked’ basis run the risk of serving very poor quality or even contaminated venison to their clients. Worse still, the absence of the full traceability information which must accompany correctly handled venison means that in the event of an inspection by Food Standards officials they could find themselves facing serious consequences.
“So the message is simple. Wild venison is a superb food product so long as it is obtained from a sustainable source, has been culled using best practice and its handling throughout has met the rigorous food hygiene requirements which are in place to protect consumers. Anything less than this is not worth the risk – for diners or food establishments themselves,” he said.