Eddy Graves, head keeper at Stowell Park Estate, Gloucestershire, talks about how the new EU hygiene regulations, introduced earlier this year, have helped bring the game sector up to speed with other markets in the UK meat industry.
"The new food hygiene rules which came into force in January 2006 are a real step forwards. They have helped enormously in bringing game in line with other meat products.
The training of hunters, good hygiene practices and the principles of HACCP, combined with the laws relating to food - the requirement to register as a food business premises with local authorities and checks from the EHO - mean that control has never been stricter and you can have complete confidence in best practice in the end product.
Our estate supplies two local butchers on a regular basis with about 4,000 pheasant and partridge from October to January, with sales at Christmas quadrupling. Supplying a wild product means we have to ensure product availability throughout the season.
Quality control is essential and starts at the shoot.Immediately after the game is shot, the birds are put in a controlled environment. They are carefully graded before plucking and evisceration, then graded again for discolouration or general spoilage and kept chilled throughout the process.
The other major game player is venison and our deer is wild from three sustainable species. It is carefully checked over and tagged with the date, time, place of killing, weight and name of the trained hunter. This provides full traceability from estate-to-plate."