The British Game Alliance sells 250,000 game birds destined for restaurants in Macau and Hong Kong

The  Staff Canteen

Game meat wasn't always the most popular ingredient on restaurant menus. But the British Game Alliance wants to put it back on the menu, addressing waste, traceability and quality issues along the way.

The BGA has signed its first major international deal, signing a contract with meat purveyor, Sutherland, for 250,000 game birds to be sent to Hong Kong and Macau, where they will be sold in retail and high-end restaurants. 

What is the British Game Alliance?

Supply chain issues and high production costs mean game  is harder to come by than farmed meat, and when newspapers report that hundreds of birds are shot and piled into landfill instead of being consumed, it's easy to see why it is not always held in high regard by the general public.

Other than FSA standards, there's little in the way of regulation for game meat, like the BMPA for pork and the Red Tractor Assurance scheme for poultry, beef and lamb. 

Founded last year, the British Game Alliance has taken on the task of self-regulation. Aside from being a promotional body for the industry, the BGA delivers an assurance scheme to hunting estates, holding them to high standards and ensuring traceability for suppliers. So far, it has signed up almost 600 estates - almost a third of the feathered game sector. 

Devised by Acoura, the certification body behind the Red Tractor stamp, the auditing scheme is hoped to bring an end to the black market for game, stopping so-called Fred in the Shed hunters from tarnishing the industry's reputation. 

Why is this deal important?

The contract with Sutherland marks a significant milestone in the group's evolution, as it could set the groundwork for a regulated, ethically-viable, low-waste game industry. 

Romeo Alfonso, managing director of Sutherland’s MeatLab, applauded the deal, and said: "We look forward to establishing and growing an exciting new market for assured British game, promoting sustainably and ethically shot game.”

Tom Adams, managing director of the BGA explained, “Along with a pipeline of other overseas deals and significant new UK distribution channels we are now seeing the demand which our sector needs to drive viability and growth, in order to bring back a value to game.”

What are the benefits of having an assurance scheme for game?

According to Leon Davis, the BGA's national sales manager who spent 18 years working in the hospitality industry,  the certification will let hunters boast best practice and will save suppliers time and resources because they won't have to enforce their own standards to sell the meat on.

The scheme is hoped to increase the availability of high standard game  - which is crucial for supermarkets wanting to sell it, as it is for chefs.  

"The BGA offers chefs, caterers and stockists full traceability from field to fork. That is its absolute aim and goal," he said.  

Watch Ben Murphy prepare a dish of grouse, blackberry and chocolate purée, sautéed muscat grapes and rainbow chard: 

What was wrong with the game industry before?

Just because bad hunting practice makes the headlines, that isn't to say that stockists weren't doing their due dilligence to make sure chefs knew where the meat came from, but before the BGA, there was nobody to certify it. 

One such example is the Lincolnshire Game Company, who joined the BGA and helped devise its auditing scheme. 

"We're different to most game dealers because we're approved process," explained co-director Tristan Kirk. 

Prior to relying on the BGA stamp, he said: "We had a massive task on because we had to regulate it ourselves, auditing the estates ourselves for the supermarket to a high standard but other than that, there wasn't anything as such in place." 

Why are chefs supporting the BGA?

While some chefs may enjoy having game delivered to their doorstep, food safety standards have changed and it is harder to escape EHO scrutiny, which could explain why some choose to keep it off the menu. 

But for Andy McLeish, the executive chef at Chapter One in Kent, the BGA's attraction is a matter of good morals. A hunter himself, he explained, assurances in terms of provenance and accountability are essential. 

"Whether you call it a sport or you call it getting meat for the restaurant, it doesn't need to be barbaric," he said. 

"If I'm teaching my son to go shooting and he wants to shoot a pigeon, he can, with my guidance.”

“We'll prepare it and we'll eat it and it's the whole regime of field to fork so to look at shoots like the large ones, with birds going to landfill, is criminal." 

The chef hopes that the BGA will help reduce waste by promoting game meat, picking it up from shoots - for which he says butchers charge £0.5 per bird - and finding buyers for the meat.

And this is where the BGA differs from other certification schemes, explained Leon Davies.  

"We're helping find an end user," he said.

The organisation wants to act as a middle man, supplying game meat not only to high end restaurants, but middle-of-the-road supermarkets, pubs and even the pet food trade. 

"They believe that they can shift all of this game in the UK to clean it up as such," said chef Andy McLeish. 

 "I fully agree with that system. If birds are going into landfill while we're struggling as a nation to produce enough food,  it's wrong on every level." 

The chef said game is one of the biggest sellers at Chapter One and hopes that by sourcing it via the BGA for the first time this year, it will be of a high quality. 

"I wish them the best of luck. I think it'll be good," he said.

Chefs! Do you have game meat on your menu? Would you use it more if you could ensure its provenance or if you thought it could help reduce waste? 

Watch Michelin star chef Phil Carmichael prepare 'Quail on Toast' with chicken liver foie gras parfait and a dish of Roasted Highland venison: 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th September 2019

The British Game Alliance sells 250,000 game birds destined for restaurants in Macau and Hong Kong