“We need to be moving away from this convenience idea, moving away from going to a supermarket and buying asparagus all year round, etc,” says chef and writer Christopher Trotter. “We need to rethink the way we buy our food, the way we live on the land.”
That’s the kind of thinking that keeps corporate executives at supermarket chains awake at night. Christopher is talking at the Scottish Game Fair where he hosted a short discussion on sustainability. Essentially, to achieve it, the supermarket system needs to devolve by a few decades to when the always available fruit and veg didn’t exist.
It may be great to have new potatoes all year, but personally I prefer old potatoes mashed into cakes with cheese. Only being able to get them in winter made them a delicacy.
“Seasonality is incredibly important to me,” says Christopher.
Venison is becoming a supermarket favourite. That means it’s available in the off season, which is one of the reasons it’s flown in from New Zealand, where it’s farmed so the source is consistent. But really, with so many deer in the UK, Scotland in particular, is there any need for it?
“They’ve got a very strong marketing board over there as well,” says Annette Woolcock of BASC. “They put a lot of money into the production and marketing of venison…. Because wild is inconsistent and the supply is inconsistent, that’s something supermarkets don’t like.”
Annette says game is becoming more popular with your people who are more health conscious and like to know exactly where their food came from. This transparency runs right through game production and is one of its more obvious benefits.
“It’s great to use what’s local… when it’s on your doorstep,” says chef Ali Moran of the Blacksmith’s Arms in on the North York Moors. “It’s great to know what you’re eating, where it’s come from. We know the person that shot it, the person that brought it to the door and the customer knows the person who cooked it. I think it’s great. I think it tells a journey, a story. I think it’s what we should be doing.”
BASC is trying to recreate that with venison in Scotland and save taxpayers millions of pounds at the same time. Currently a flawed deer management contractor system exists. BASC wants to swap that for semi-amateur groups of shooters who would gladly pay to stalk deer and supply their communities with game.
“It’s an idea that’s floated around for a long time,” says Ross Ewing of BASC Scotland. “We want to trial this properly and if it works, we’ll call on the government to establish a £500,000 deer larder fund, which would enable communities to go and build their own larders.”
Ross adds that it’s very easy for butchers to become venison dealers, so there’s already an established distribution network throughout the country.
“If we’ve got a local stalker and a local business, there’s no reason why the two can’t then talk to each other and all the produce would be sold locally and benefits the community. So it’s going to be economically stimulating.”