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Nurturing a taste for game

Serving game to tots in nurseries makes perfect sense. It presents an ideal opportunity to teach the next generation about the natural world, of which they are a part, and the benefits of eating healthily and sustainably. All of this is helped along by both the abundance of game which we happily have in this country and the joys of its depth of flavour.

We therefore welcome the news that the Tops Nursery Group in the South of England, in conjunction with Eat Wild, will be serving thousands of game-based meals to their children each month. A trailblazing and thoroughly laudable step in the path to making the most of the fantastically rich larder that is our countryside on a society-wide scale.

Besides the obvious health benefits of eating game, with venison and pheasant being higher in protein, vitamins and minerals and lower in fat than farmyard equivalents like beef and chicken respectively, eating game also has a positive impact on the environment. Pheasant and partridge meat is just one of the end results of all the hard work and financial contribution by the shooting community which has myriad ecological benefits to boot. Be it the planting and maintenance of woodland, the planting of wildflower cover, or the protection of hedges, all of these practices create the perfect habitat not just for pheasant and partridge, but also for so many other rare and vulnerable species of fauna and flora.

In the same vein, the practice of deer management through which we harvest our venison has many environmental boons. Deer, as browsers of woodland understory, in overpopulation can decimate both new tree growth and ground level vegetation, meaning less carbon capture and the destruction of both habitat and food source for many rare species such as nightingale. By eating venison and encouraging others to do likewise, we are protecting all of the best bits of our countryside for the next generation.

It is all too prevalent that those who have not been lucky enough to grow up in a game-eating family, are seldom - if ever - exposed to the joys of game. By introducing game into people’s diet at an early age, in an institutional setting, it will become more normalised in a way that hasn’t been seen in several generations. We know that highly processed food isn’t good for us, we know that intensive farming methods leave something to be desired, and this initiative is the perfect antidote.

You’ll notice I said ‘institutional setting’ rather than ‘school’ - that is quite deliberate. If the goal of having game meat in the mainstream is to be achieved, then importance must be placed on seeing game prevalent on menus in other institutional grandees of British society. After the success of the trial of game in 5 hospitals back in 2022, the roster of hospitals wanting to follow suit is still increasing. Hopefully it will soon be that not just schoolchildren are tucking into venison bolognaise or pheasant pie at lunch time, but also in-patients in hospital wards and those staying at His Majesty’s Pleasure up and down the country.

Less institutional, but equally important, game is also surfacing in the footballing world at Arsenal and West Ham’s grounds. Admittedly the introduction of game at these grounds was in the hospitality section, but it paves the path for a game pie to be the half time pie of choice for those in the less comfortable seats. The beautiful game indeed!

Is it foolish to believe that in a few years’ time, the average, supermarket-shopping brit might be reaching for pheasant rather than chicken, for venison rather than beef? I certainly hope not, but the more we can do to open the eyes (and taste buds) of the un-initiated to the joys and benefits of game, the better.

An important part of getting game onto menus is assurance, giving buyers the required confidence that what they are putting on the table is of the highest quality and welfare. Aim to Sustain’s Game Assurance Scheme provides exactly this service, with independent auditors and labelling akin to the now ubiquitous ‘red tractor’. Those who buy Aim to Sustain assured game know that the pheasants and partridges are from trustworthy shoots which operate to the highest standards.


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