With grouse and pheasant shooting seasons looming, we look at how the sector is taking a leaf from farming’s book when it comes to assurance schemes.
Game shooting is looking to return value into the market for game meat as shooting grows in popularity in the UK.
The British Game Alliance (BGA) has developed a quality assurance scheme which looks to provide customers with confidence and find a market for the meat in the food chain.
Game shooting’s popularity is on the increase, becoming an increasingly vital part of the local economy, but this popularity had not previously seen a corresponding increase in the demand for game.
BGA said shooting comes with a responsibility, for participants and the industry, to ensure the birds go into the food chain.
But for it to become more popular, retailers and restaurants need to have confidence in its quality and provenance.
It has developed a quality assurance scheme setting out a best practice standard based on the Code of Good Shooting Practice, covering everything from animal welfare to conservation and food handling procedures.
Registered BGA members will be assessed against these standards by a team of independent auditors – similar to the Red Tractor Scheme and run by Lloyd’s Register.
The BGA has audited 50 per cent of the 500 registered shoots and aims to audit 75 per cent in the next year.
Another pilot scheme, developed with specialist game vets St David’s and the Game Farmer’s Association, has been designed to ensure the highest possible welfare standards at game farm level in the hatching and rearing of the birds.
It emphasised it was not just focused on large commercial operations, but smaller shoots too, and aimed to show the Government legislative regulation was not necessary.
Peter Boggs, of the Moulinard Shoot in the Highlands, was audited last season.
He says: “As we are a small shoot for friends and family, I was somewhat apprehensive about the audit, but not as much as our gamekeeper.
“The audit took several hours with some excellent feedback and positive suggestions. In the end, it was painless and constructive. The audit helped reinforced the fact we are doing things properly and have the birds’ welfare top of mind.”
BGA said for many shoots signing up, nothing much needed to change as they already follow best practice.
It has issued a pre-assessment checklist, to make the process more straightforward.
Shoots are contacted in advance to agree a date when they would be reviewed on all aspects of the shoot.
The assessor writes a report, and should there be any noncompliances, the assessor will detail the type of evidence required to achieve the BGA standard and provide advice on correcting them.
Shoots will then sign an undertaking of intention to carry out the action required, provide evidence that the necessary action has been taken or be subject to a re-assessment to confirm that the improvements have been completed.
If all standards are met, the shoot will pass the audit immediately and receive a certificate of accreditation.