The group, overseen by the Soil Association Scotland-led Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS), involves six estates working with SAC Consulting (part of Scotland’s Rural College, SRUC) and Fife-based processor Woodmill Game to explore new markets for game birds.
Glenrinnes Farms, a private sporting estate which offers a variety of shooting activities, produces around 3,000 pheasants, ducks and partridges annually. But these game birds often end up being sold for pennies.
Estate Manager at Glenrinnes Alister Laing says, “We’re getting less and less money from the game dealer. In certain situations they’re not even picking them up, which causes a major problem. So that inspired us to see if we could develop a market for these birds, which could benefit us and the whole shooting industry.”
Glenrinnes and the other estates in the RISS group recognised that there is an opportunity to move from considering game birds a sporting by-product to viewing them as a marketable product from Scotland’s natural larder.
“The challenge is trying to find the market,” says Alister, “because people look at pheasants and partridge and don’t see it as a meat they want to eat. A lot of people aren’t sure what to do with a pheasant these days. So we need to process it into a product people recognise. It’s trying to get people to try it and enjoy it!
“We wanted to try and brand our own products to give people pies, pheasant breasts, sausages, burgers, or a whole pheasant to try. It would also encourage them to eat a healthy meat, to utilise the birds we shoot, and have more money coming back into the estate.”
The first trial of game birds goes to processing this week.
SAC Consulting food and drink consultant Ceri Ritchie facilitated the group, connecting the estate managers with a processing unit in Fife who turn the game birds into food products.
Ritchie says: “We were initially approached by Alister Laing of Glenrinnes Farms. He and five other estates in the area offering shooting to tourists wanted to collaborate to develop a market opportunity for processing and selling estate game. The birds are a by-product of a shooting estate, so the estate managers were keen to add value.
“The RISS approach allowed someone active in the food and drink sector to bring the group together. We have the time to do the research and identify the opportunities to move forward with, which meant that the estates had the additional resource needed to make this project happen.”