Grouse supplies affected by weather

Supplies of grouse this season are likely to be variable, due to poor weather on some moors during the chick hatching period in early May.

Yorkshire butcher and game wholesaler J B Cockburn & Sons of Bedale, North Yorkshire supplies up to 60,000 game birds in the season. Owner Mark Cockburn said: “There aren’t likely to be as many grouse available this year. Poor weather in the hatching period in the first couple of weeks of May killed off young chicks. The lower grouse moors aren’t quite so badly affected.”

Once the season is well under way, prices could vary from several pounds to as little as £4 for oven-ready birds, and much cheaper for in-feather birds.

Despite weather-affected supplies this year, game is generally getting cheaper every year. Alan Hayward, managing director of English meat and game specialist Vicars Game, said: “Diseases that grouse succumb to have been overcome because of medication in the grit (they eat), so over the last few years there has been an abundance of grouse. As a result, prices have fallen. I can remember charging £12 a bird through the season, even £40 a bird one year, and every year they are getting cheaper.”  

He predicted: “This year they’ll probably be £5 or £6 for an oven-ready bird after the first few opening days of the season.”  

Oven-ready pheasant and partridges are cheaper, likely to be about £3 a bird.

Trends are changing in the foodservice sector. “Popular, novel and becoming affordable is a trio of game comprising a venison sausage, a partridge breast and a pigeon breast,” Hayward said. “Pheasant breast can be used as well. Restaurants tend to go for just serving the breast whether it be partridge, grouse or pigeon; the whole bird isn’t so popular any more.”

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