Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Venison spreads its wings

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Farm-raised venison is changing with New Zealand no longer having all its eggs in one basket, new Deer Industry NZ chief executive Innes Moffat says.
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With established markets evolving and new ones emerging some important new markets have been developed.

They are the result of active market development programmes by both individual venison companies and collectively by the five main venison exporters supported by DINZ. 

Moffat said demand from the United States has steadily grown over the past 10 years to make it NZ’s largest year-round market for chilled venison. 

Demand from China has developed over the past three years, making it likely to become a valuable complementary market to continental Europe.

The Middle East, Britain and Sweden are other emerging niche market opportunities. 

“On the other hand there are changes that, as with markets for all food products, are unpredictable or outside our ability to influence.” 

He cited the sudden spike in demand two years ago from American pet food manufacturers for venison meat and bone meal and manufacturing grades that pushed farmgate prices up by $1 a kilogram.

“This was very much in the unpredictable category, arising from pet food companies seeking to secure supply for pet foods containing venison.” 

Prices for pet food grades have since eased sharply but venison’s place as an ingredient in premium pet foods looks reasonably assured with consumers seeing venison as a positive in the diets of their pets. 

Meanwhile, northern Europe, particularly Germany, continues to be a highly seasonal market with a tradition of autumn and early winter game season demand providing farmers with peak prices in September and October.

For many years the industry has worked to develop non-seasonal markets while building awareness in Europe of the attributes of NZ’s premium farmed product. 

Moffat said that awareness-building continues with a key influencer programme under way.

DINZ chefs Graham Brown and Shannon Campbell are hosting dinners for food writers and chef seminars in partnership with importing and distribution companies in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden.

While many European chefs and retailers recognise the quality of chilled NZ venison, market conditions there are subdued following poor sales of frozen venison at very high prices in 2018. 

That is reflected in schedule prices to farmers sitting at $9.60/kg compared to $11.30 this time last year. 

“Looking ahead, venison marketers are mindful that with climate change, winter in Europe is arriving later and is shorter than it once was. 

“A shorter winter means a shorter game season and for NZ a continued emphasis on the development of new markets.” 

That includes developing a market during the European summer for premium Cervena venison as a grilling item. 

“Achieving this along with exploring the potential market in China is a key element in Passion 2 Profit, our Primary Growth Partnership programme with the Government,” Moffat said. 

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