Game is all the rage, don't you know

Game has rocketed into the realm of fashionable foods and is set for a bright future, if current trends continue, says Benjamin Weatherall of processing company Yorkshire Game. He adds game had never been seen as fashionable in the past, but it certainly is now and the concept of game as expensive and exclusive is quickly being eradicated. "The general public are waking up to how good game is to eat," he says.

The company, which supplies game birds and venison to the foodservice industry, is experiencing huge growth in supplying products to butchers. Yorkshire Game supplies game to approximately 200 butchers and catering butchers in the north-east of England. Venison, grouse, pheasant, partridge, wild duck, wood pigeon, hare and rabbit are the most popular products, with butchers favouring pheasants, which provide best value for money.

Weatherall says: "Supplying butchers is the biggest part of growing our business. Butchers sell pork, beef and lamb all the time, so they should stress the seasonality of the product. That's what the general public want today - seasonality, regionality and traceability - these three things are very much in the forefront of consumers' minds. People are finding the same thing in supermarkets too; products that have a story attached to them, with the name of the producer on the front, are popular."

The company has annual sales of £2m and also supplies game indirectly to the supermarkets via ready meals, an area of great expansion, according to Weatherall. It also supplies a number of pub chains, as well as high-profile London hotel restaurants, and conducts 90% of its business in the UK, with the remaining 10% focused on exports.

Yorkshire Game operates from an EC export-licensed plant in North Yorkshire and has recently gained a gold award for a CMI audit. Weatherall says the new EU game hygiene regulations enforced the company's already established good practices. He says the regulations were an example of red tape and not everyone would adhere to them.

However, he adds: "Historically the game sector has been terribly fragmented so these new regulations will provide more professionalism within the sector."

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