National Trust: ‘Deer management means venison is now on the menu’

RED MEAT lovers are in for a treat with the unveiling of the National Trust’s first venison processing unit at Hatfield Forest to combat the inflated population of deer.

Managing the deer is an essential element of woodland management undertaken by the team at the forest. Left unchecked, with no natural predators they quickly outstrip available food sources and can cause irreparable damage to crops, plants and trees.

Henry Bexley, countryside manager for the National Trust in Essex, has been keen to install a venison processing unit at Hatfield Forest for a long time.

“Venison is a fantastic, healthy meat. I love it, especially knowing that it is the result of the woodland management work we do, the ultimate in sustainable food.

“It’s taken a while to get the unit here, so it’s great to have the support of the Deer Initiative, not just in terms of money, but advice and practical help too.”

With the help of �31,025 allocated by the East of England Wild Venison Project, which the National Trust matched, the warden team at Hatfield Forest is delighted that this new butchery facility is up and running.

The processing unit has been purpose built, and incorporates separate space for ‘gralloching’ - the primary procedure undertaken by trained stalkers where carcasses are hygienically prepared, hung in the chiller then skinned and hung, before being taken through to the butchery area where they are cut, packaged and labelled.

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Graham Riminton, the Project Officer from the Deer Initiative, which allocates funding, added: “The Hatfield Forest Wild Venison Unit ticks all the boxes for our project: improving deer management, improving the supply of high quality venison to local markets, improving woodland SSSI status, reducing the number of road traffic accidents and helping to protect agricultural yields in the area.”

To keep the population at a sustainable level, census information is gathered, and a team of trained stalkers cull the required number of deer, both fallow and muntjac. From now onwards, the deer carcasses will be processed by a butcher in this bespoke unit. The end product of this conservation practice, venison, will be on sale for visitors to buy any cut.