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Support for Scottish venison could help UK shortfall

April 2015

Venison has grown significantly in popularity as a meat product in the last five years. Yet, many British supermarkets are stocked with imported rather than local, UK produced venison.

A new, detailed study from the University of Aberdeen, the James Hutton Institute and the Scottish Venison Partnership, and funded by Interface Food and Drink, has determined what difficulties Scottish deer farmers face when trying to enter the sector.

A lack of financial support and practical difficulties accessing stock and information were cited as some of the barriers to entering into deer farming. The findings indicate that while those interested in the opportunity recognise the potential for the industry to continue to grow, they are in need of increased support to move into deer - in the form of funding and more accessible information.

Dr Gina Maffey from the University of Aberdeen who authored the study Farming for Venison, investigating the barriers to deer farming in Scotland said:

"Although deer farming began in Scotland in the 1970s, we still don't truly understand the industry. It is vital that new entrants and those already established are able to share information on new and best practices and funding opportunities to ensure the industry is able to meet its potential - and doing so requires Government recognition of the role that a buoyant venison sector could have in the Scottish agricultural economy."

The report outlines the innovative methods being used by new entrant deer farmers to address such challenges, and concludes with a comprehensive list of recommendations for how the sector could develop in the future.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
"The Scottish Government is committed to developing Scotland's venison sector and helping it realise its full potential to secure a sustainable future for the industry.
"Last year I announced funding for the establishment of the Deer Demonstration Project under the SRDP Skills Development Scheme, which I'm delighted to say has been a huge success in its first year. It has allowed those looking to get into the sector gain a greater understanding and knowledge of the work needed to be a success in the industry. The first deer demonstration farm, Culquoich Farm, has provided an invaluable insight to those with aspirations to grow Scotland's venison production, and I look forward to the imminent launching of the second deer demonstration farm."
Stephen Gibbs, Chairman, The Scottish Venison Partnership, said:

"This is an opportune time to invest in the Scottish venison sector. We have a premium product, steadily growing consumer demand and a receptive market - however, quality imported product will still be an essential part of the make up of the market even if Scotland can significantly expand its own farmed production in the future."

Helen Pratt, Project Manager, Interface Food and Drink, funders of the report, said:

"Deer farming has the potential to be a dynamic growing industry in the primary sector, and highlights so much that is good about Scotland's natural larder. It's great to have our world class academics involved in this up and coming industry."

Dr Justin Irvine, The James Hutton Institute, said:

"There is clearly increasing interest and capability among land managers in relation to deer farming for venison. For this momentum to continue the industry needs develop the infrastructure for marketing and processing and build collaboration with policy makers to ensure the sector has the capacity to support the venison production as it expands."

To read a full copy of the report Farming for Venison, investigating the barriers to deer farming in Scotland see:
http://bit.ly/1yq2TPa

The report is published as a second series of Deer Farm and Park Demonstration Days is about to go live as part of the two-year project funded by the Scottish Government and the EU through the SRDP Skills Development Scheme.