Every gameshooting season in the UK, around 30 million pheasants are shot. Many go to supermarkets and the catering trade, and some go home with the shooters, but it can be hard to find a market for the birds. Animal rights activists from the League Against Cruel Sports call the whole world of shooting a ‘massive waste of life’. Now, one pro-shooting organisation reckons it can sell every pheasant we shoot.
“We could use absolutely every pheasant in the country, and every partridge, and still not really dent the surface of the poverty,” says Tim Woodward, chief executive of the Country Food Trust.
The Country Food Trust started in 2015 with a simple idea: to take pheasants, turn them in to delicious meals, and feed them to people in need. It briefly sold its products online and has explored selling direct to some of the biggest catering markets in the country in order to raise funds for the CFT’s core work.
The CFT works with organisations across the country such as homeless and vulnerable outreach network HAVON. Ricky Gleeson is HAVON’s co-founder. He experienced living on the streets himself before he turned his life around.
“I was homeless for a long time,” he says. “I was in and out of prison, had bad drug problems, sorted myself out and joined the Forces. I always wanted to put something back in to society.”
HAVON relies solely on donations and receives no public funding and, for the last few months, the Country Food Trust has been supplying the charity with easy-to-cook meals, served from a borrowed food truck on a car sales forecourt. With more than 8.4 million people in the UK classed as ‘living in food poverty’, soup kitchens such as HAVON are an essential resource for those in need. Keith is a regular visitor to HAVON, following his marriage breakdown. “I’m down on my luck, and so a hot meal… it helps,” he says. “It all adds up”
The Country Food Trust is not the first or even the only agency to market game. BASC has Taste of Game, the Countryside Alliance has Game to Eat and both of them back the British Game Alliance. As well as providing recipes, these concentrate on selling to supermarkets and teaching catering students how to cook game. Thanks to them, more and more people are buying game but still only one in six of the British public.
On the streets of Salisbury, we test shoppers’ appetite for game meat pasties and sausage rolls from Wild & Game. Some are trying pheasant for the first time, with some more experienced pheasant-munchers eating it in a way they hadn’t before. And almost all of the feedback is positive. “It just tastes like normal meat. You wouldn’t know it was pheasant,” says one.
The next step for the Country Food Trust is to raise more money to help people in need. We ask Woodward if he thinks that the government could be doing more to support the use of game meat with charities such as HAVON, but as the Country Food Trust is unable to be seen to lobby, he is unable to answer the question.