A walk on the Wild and Game side | Meet your local

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Pies, pasties and sausages are on the menu at Yeovil-based Wild and Game as they promote the use of wild British game into our diets. Rachael Rowe reports

Nordic-style venison.
All images: Wild and Game

It’s that season when thoughts turn to pheasant and venison dishes, but one local company is making British game a year-round food dish. Steve Frampton, the managing director of Yeovil-based Wild and Game, explained how it all began in 2017:
‘We really wanted to sell more British game – most of the game from British estates is sold to European markets. We want to change that and encourage more people to buy our own. Game is a great commodity in this country.
‘People think that game meat is an expensive meat. The Victorians started that by making it an exclusive food. But it is actually in abundance, especially venison and partridge. There’s also lots of people who don’t know how to cook it, or don’t have a taste for it.
‘All our meat is wild game. We source it from British game dealers and British estates (including in Dorset and the West Country). Game dealers will buy from British shoots and estates, and farms for meat like venison. The meat is processed quickly, so we have breast meat, whole birds, and also pies and pates.’
What about the shooting season which will affect pheasant, for example?
‘Our meat is processed very quickly and then frozen, so it’s available throughout the year. It’s not seasonal and there’s no reason why British game can’t be available all year round. We extend the season beyond the season.
‘And wild game has a lower carbon footprint. It’s also lower in cholesterol than other red meats. Some people are concerned about the carbon footprint with traditional farming right now and looking at vegetarian lifestyles; game meat is a good halfway house as the meat is all wild.’

Sales manager Paul Houlker, business support manager Spencer Lord, co-founder Steven Frampton, technical consultant Katie Watkins-Young and operations director Mark Robbins

Tell us about the team?
‘We have three people at the distribution warehouse and three working on the business side. We also have an extended network of game dealers, obviously.”

The most popular products?
‘Sausages, all year round! Especially the venison and pheasant sausage. We’re also bringing back our grouse sausages and we have a pheasant and caramelised onion variety too. Other meats like pigeon and rabbit are also popular – I can’t get enough rabbits to sell.’

Rolled venison haunch roast

Are you just mail order?
‘We are. But we do supply a few shops, too. COVID was the main reason for developing the mail order side as the market virtually collapsed during the pandemic. But there’s a massive demand for game meat.
‘Everything is delivered frozen. People don’t eat game every day so they can put what they don’t want to use immediately in the freezer. Once it is cooked, most can be refrozen.’
If you haven’t visited the Wild and Game website, take a look even if just for the recipes (though do look at the meat of course!). If you’re in the “I don’t know what to do with it” camp there are many interesting and creative ideas on how to cook game, with lots of inspiration for meals. So who is responsible for them?
‘Jenny Price, our PR consultant, and Mark Robbins, our operations director, design the recipes. We developed a range of them purely because some people are frightened of cooking game. When they look at our site, they can always find one that fits. We also do subscription boxes of game and a recipe booklet is included, so it gets people thinking. People are always looking for more ideas and recipes.’

Your biggest challenge?
‘Getting people to eat game! People have this idea that game is expensive and that it needs to be hung for a long time which results in the strong “gamey” taste – that’s not always a taste for modern people. Our animals are processed very quickly so that strong game flavour isn’t there.’

What are you most proud of?
‘Really, simply getting to where we are today. We now have a customer base of 32,000 but it has been hard work.’

So what’s next?
‘We’re focused on getting game into the British diet. We’re about to launch a range of six ready meals. A lot of work has gone into the technical side and sampling – it’s a long process. We also have a luxury pies range. We’re always looking to try something interesting with game meat for the longer term prospects of the business.’

The review
Growing up I used to eat a lot of pheasant as Dad belonged to a local farming shoot. Like Wild and Game we didn’t hang game birds for a long time as we weren’t keen on the stronger gamey taste. Having had to clean a few pheasants in my time, it was a pleasant change to receive a sample pack where all that processing had been done for me! Everything was well insulated so it could be simply popped in the freezer until ready to use and the delivery time from the courier was accurate. The recipe booklet really got me thinking about how to cook something different, in ways I would never have thought about (Chinese -style orange pheasant anyone?). The meat was very high quality and tasted delicious. I’m now a big fan of the venison and pheasant sausages and I’m looking forward to creating a Moroccan-style chilli with some venison mince.

www.wildandgame.co.uk

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