Venison exporters size up German market for Cervena
Deer exporters are testing the German market to see if they can entice consumers to eat Cervena venison during the northern hemisphere summer.
For the last three years the industry has been running a trial in Belgium and the Netherlands, selling chilled venison to the restaurant trade and it intends to replicate this in Germany.
Europeans usually eat venison in autumn and winter, but Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) is working to create a market for Cervena style venison from April to July.
Cervena is the name given to grass-fed venison from New Zealand-farmed deer less than three years of age.
DINZ chief executive Dan Coup said the trial, while relatively small, was symbolically very important.
Total deer kill is down in New Zealand while farmers rebuild herds following years of industry decline.
"It's all about developing the market for when venison comes on stream in 18-24 months as the herds are rebuilt," Coup said.
The three-year trial in Belgium and the Netherlands has developed to 80 tonnes and has involved processors Alliance Group, Duncan New Zealand, Mountain River, First Light Foods and Silver Fern Farms.
Initially, only Silver Fern Farms will offer Cervena for sale in the 2017 German trial, but Alliance will launch a trial next year. SFF will work with three food service distributors that deliver products to top restaurants.
The chilled Cervena will attract a premium of about $3.70 per kilogram over frozen venison, which is sold from September to December
The trials are part of $16 million, 7-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between DINZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries. The programme is in its second year. All five major venison marketers and DINZ collaborate and share the trials' insights and results, even though not all the exporters are involved in every trial.
The United States is now New Zealand's largest year-round market for chilled venison. The challenge was to replicate that success in Europe during the summer, when game meat demand is at its lowest, Coup said.