New uses for lower value venison products
Venison exporters are uncovering markets for under-valued products in attempts to boost the rising deer industry.
Deer Industry New Zealand venison manager Innes Moffat said he hoped its reputation as a "roller coaster" industry was behind it.
Combined with a lower value New Zealand dollar, the marketing efforts appear to be bearing fruit for what has been a struggling sector over the past decade.
In the year to September 2014, venison exports were worth $181 million, up from $163m the year before.
The value of deer velvet was $28m, up $5m, and "co-products" rose by $7m to $26m.
Moffat said the recently launched Passion2Profit strategy aimed to lift returns by $56 million a year by 2022.
The Government is spending $7.4m and the deer industry $8m to fund the programme.
"We think the goal is realistic because it's being built on incremental gains and focusing on different aspects. For example, the industry is trying to lift carcass weights by 2-3 kilograms, it wants to bring processing dates forward by 16 days to better meet markets, and is aiming to export a bigger volume of higher value, chilled venison."
In the United States, lower value cuts are being ground up for hamburgers, and in Germany and Belgium they are packaged into retail packs for the "goulash" trade.
While Germany remains the largest market, the United States is providing pointers for where extra value can be reaped off cuts such as ribs, brisket and even edible offal like sweetbreads.
"Chilled striploins and tenderloins already sell at a premium to competing proteins and they make up only 10 per cent of the meat on a carcass. Getting higher prices for other parts of the carcass is where a big value opportunity lies," Moffat said.
The US had picked up as a market for burgers at the premium end.
"They're not being sold at McDonald's but at higher value outlets and even in white-cloth restaurants where consumers like the fact the meat is 99 per cent fat-free," Moffat said.
DINZ executive chef Graham Brown has been helping distributors in the US – now New Zealand's largest chilled market – to promote Cervena as a summer grilling item. He says he has been using new cuts – ribs, brisket and even some edible offal like sweetbreads.
"Some leg cuts are being separated out and pre-portioned in beef-style BBQ cuts that chefs are familiar with. These are proving popular with chefs as far south as Florida as a year-round BBQ item," Brown said.
Terry O'Connell of Alliance Group said that there was a big opportunity to add value to shoulder, A- and B-trim and the flaps, all of which "are under-valued at present".
O'Connell said in the United Kingdom and Europe, New Zealand venison marketers had been able to take advantage of concerns over food safety and traceability.
"What turbo-charged it was the horsegate saga in the UK. Striploin, tender loin and leg steaks are in good demand in traditional markets, but also the 'b trims' and the 'a trims' and the shoulder meat are getting real possibilities in the US and UK," O'Connell said.
He said the Chinese market had only just opened up 18 months ago and was so far a "blank sheet" when it came to venison.
Moffat said the focus in China would be on individual cities and retail chains. There had been a lively market there for tails, sinews and pizzles which were considered to have health giving properties.