Consumer interest in venison falls dramatically

Niche market ‘seasonal’ as number of deer farms drops from 500 to ‘a small number’

Consumption of venison in Ireland dropped by almost two-thirds last year, reflecting a sharply declining interest in deer farming in the State, according to the latest figures.

In 2016, a total of 764 deer were slaughtered for the Irish market, but this dropped by 64.5 per cent in 2017 to just 271 deer. No deer have been slaughtered to date in 2018.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said deer farm numbers had dropped sharply since 1996 when about 500 farms were in operation with about 20,000 deer.

“Today there are only a small number of farmers in Ireland actively supplying deer for meat production, which cater primarily to specialised niche markets,” Mr Creed said.


Seasonal demand

In reply to a written parliamentary question the Minister stressed that demand for deer was seasonal.

Game and exotic meats “occupy a premium niche segment of the market and growth in the past was achieved as a result of improved distribution for game meats, especially in supermarkets”, Mr Creed said.

“The sector is reliant on producers and companies ensuring that a market exists for their product, an objective which Bord Bia assists in by identifying and developing potential market outlets.”

He was responding to Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan who asked to what extent the venison market was sustainable in Ireland and abroad.

The Minister believed there were opportunities to compete with the larger premium segment of the red meat and poultry categories, but he stressed that “demand is seasonal with the greatest concentration of retail shelf space dedicated to game in the winter/ Christmas period”.

One factory has Department of Agriculture approval for the slaughter of deer in Ireland and two game handling plants.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times