The Deer Initiative

What we do

Promoting venison


The meat from deer is a low fat red meat that is very versatile in cooking and full of flavour. As well as being lower in saturated fat than other red meats, venison is higher in polyunsaturated fats, with good polyunsaturated to saturated (P:S) and omega n-3 to omega n-6 ratios. This is largely because deer feed on grass and vegetation rather than high-energy cereals.

Both wild and farmed venison is available at many butchers and farmers' markets, and through a number of businesses on the internet. View a list of businesses selling wild game

Composition per 100g Fat
VENISON, haunch raw 1.6 22.2 103 3.3 50
roast 2.5 35.6 165 5.1 **
CHICKEN, skinless raw 2.1 22.3 108 0.7 90
roast 7.5 27.3 177 0.7 105
BEEF, topside raw 12.9 20.4 198 1.7 48
roast 11.4 29.9 222 2.3 68
LAMB, leg raw 12.3 19 187 1.4 78
roast 13 29.7 236 2.2 110
PORK, leg, lean raw 2.2 21.7 107 0.8 64
roast 5.5 33 182 1.1 100

** No reliable result. Table from Nichola Fletcher (2007) ‘Ultimate Venison Cookery’ after McCance & Widdowson (1995) ‘The Composition of Food: Meat, Poultry and Game’. PUFA and P:S ratios: Rosemaund/ADAS research in partnership with FSA (in print) 2009. Samples were from young farmed deer.


Wild venison is a natural product of sustainable deer management, which in the absence of natural predators, often necessitates culling by deer "stalkers". Stalking and venison production can also provide important sources of employment, and the revenue generated can offset the costs of deer management, and of the impacts (e.g. on agriculture and habitats) of the deer themselves.

In line with the need to manage wild deer on a landscape-scale (to match the ecology of the deer) the Deer Initiative is keen to support local production, processing and consumption of venison. As well as helping to integrate deer management, this supports local markets and reduces "food miles" as part of a sustainable, low-impact, food economy.

Supporting wild venison

Both wild and farmed venison have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years in the UK, thanks to a number of factors, including the growing interest in healthy food combined with efforts to develop standards and marketing.

The Deer Initiative and its Partners continue to look for opportunities to support the development of wild venison markets, particularly at the local level. Key messages from studies so far are that while issues vary with location, there is often a demand for storage, handling and processing facilities, and that the connection between local producers, processors and final consumers needs to improve.

The Deer Initiative has supported local initiatives in the Welsh Marches, Cumbria, Lincolnshire and Devon, including by helping provide equipment and facilities such as mobile chiller trailers - especially useful in collaborative culls. Individual Deer Initiative Partners are also taking action - Forestry Commission England, for example, has improved larder facilities and provided larders for shared use, as well as playing a key role in local deer management groups.

We have recently completed a study in the Rockingham Forest Area of Northamptonshire to explore the possibility of a local collaborative venison production and processing chain to reduce food miles and promote sustainable wild deer management. Another study, commissioned by the East of England Deer Forum, also examined the potential for a regionally-funded venison processing project. With the support of European regional development funding and Woodfuel East, we have successfully completed the East of England Venison Project to develop the venison sector and support sustainable deer management in the area. If you require any further information about this project, please contact David Hooton (email or telephone 07970 141512) who is the Deer Liaison Officer for the east of England.

The Deer Initiative and its Partners will continue to look for opportunities to support local and regional initiatives.

Health and hygiene

Stalkers, processors and other practitioners need to adhere to the highest standards in health, safety and hygiene, including compliance with EU and domestic legislation. The Deer Initiative has produced a comprehensive suite of Best Practice Guides for England and Wales, to complement those produced for Scotland by the Deer Commission for Scotland. They include guides on carcase handling, storage and preparation, and will be updated regularly to reflect any changes in legislation and best practice.

The Best Practice Guides also support those wanting to gain qualifications such as the Deer Stalking Certificates levels 1 and 2 - the benchmark for stalker training. Hygiene and safety requirements are included in the DSCs and in National Occupational Standards, and the Deer Initiative continues to work with the Food Standards Agency and the Sector Skills Council LANTRA to ensure that standards match legislation and meet the needs of the industry.

Key principles underlying EU legislation are traceability and hygienic practices underpinned by training. Given the fragmented and often small-scale nature of the game meat industry, legal requirements for training, registration, inspection etc can be complex and difficult to follow.

Individuals are recommended to research the requirements in order to determine what they need to do. We have helped the FSA produce a guidance note, which is available on the FSA website

Further links

The Deer Initiative

Associated documents

Document nameDate added
Feasibility study for the processing and marketing of wild venison in the East of England - June 200910/11/2011  Download
Feasibility study for the processing and marketing of wild venison in Rockingham Forest - Feb 201010/11/2011  Download
Feasibility study for the processing and marketing of wild venison in Rockingham Forest - appendices10/11/2011  Download
Feasibility study for the processing and marketing of wild venison in Rockingham Forest - appendices10/11/2011  Download

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