'Delicious' tahr good for business

Students devise new farming venture

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 14:00 08/02/2014
tahr
Steuart Laing
YUM: Wild tahr could be farmed for their meat.

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Two University of Canterbury students want to create an entirely new industry - farming tahr and exporting their meat.

Dylan Avery and Hugh Mack would capture himalayan tahr in the Southern Alps, farm the animals and export their meat to high-end restaurants in North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Tahr could be a "premium quality, ethically-sourced delicious food" that played on New Zealand's clean, green marketing, Mack said.

The goat-like tahr were introduced to New Zealand in 1904 and have long been classified as a pest because they eat and trample native vegetation in high alpine areas. The Department of Conservation allows hunting with few restrictions all year as a control scheme.

"Why isn't New Zealand using this asset?" Mack asked.

The project is "hugely ambitious", Canterbury's director of strategic projects, Chris Kirk, said. It has "many parallels with the early stages of setting up the deer farming industry".

The first deer farming licence was issued in 1970 and in 2013 the industry exported about $182 million worth of meat, according to Deer Industry NZ.

Globally, tahr are classified as "near-threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because the species is believed to be in significant decline.

Hunting tahr in the Himalaya regions is banned, making New Zealand the only place where tahr meat can be ethically sourced, Avery told a university innovation conference on Wednesday.

The meat is "bloody delicious", chef George Tye of Elevate Bar in Cashmere said - like gamey beef but less strong than wild venison or wild duck. He paired meat supplied by Avery and Mack with mushrooms and a wild berry jus .

Avery, who finishes a bachelor degree in finance, international business and marketing this year, and Mack, who has embarked on a master's degree in commerce this year, hit on the idea two years ago in a commerce course and have been nurturing it since.

Last year, the pair won an innovation award from student-run company Entre. They have a deal with DOC to farm tahr, access to a small herd and will soon seek farmers to grow animals.

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- The Press

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