Venison recovery underway

Nov 18, 2021

The usual drop in farmer returns for venison that follows the spring chilled export season is expected to be much smaller this year. After reaching peak of around $7.10 a kg in October, average prices to deer farmers eased to around $6.90 a kg in mid-November and are expected to stay around that level at least until the end of the year. 

“In Germany, the game meat season is going well, even though the country is dealing with a fourth wave of the pandemic, with case numbers hitting new highs,” says Deer Industry NZ venison marketing manager Nick Taylor.

Unfortunately, the high cost and limited capacity of airfreight out of New Zealand has meant that less venison is being airfreighted to Europe, despite requests from some importers. This has seen importers rapidly working through their frozen venison stocks, helping reduce inventory on the continent.

To drive retail sales in Germany, venison importers are running game season venison promotions, including – for the first time since 2019 – in-store tastings and events at supermarkets. They are being supported by DINZ chef Shannon Campbell who has also been assisting with promotions in the UK, Belgium and Sweden.

NZ venison promotions in Europe have coincided with a reopening of restaurants and good sales during the game meat season

In addition, DINZ has been working with a popular German recipe library/social network Kitchen Stories. In early November the Kitchen Stories team shot a series of NZ venison recipe videos, including a modern take on a traditional goulash.

Taylor says restaurants in Europe and North America are back in business, even if it’s a very different world to the one they operated in back in 2019. The proportion of the German population with double vaccine shots is less than 70 per cent. In the United States it is less than 60 per cent – levels that are too low to stop the spread of the virus.

“Basically, governments, restaurants and the public have recognised that since delta can’t be eliminated, businesses and individuals have to decide what level of risk they are willing to accept,” he says. “Mask wearing, proof of vaccination and social distancing are the norm, and restaurant ventilation is being improved.

“We have also seen restaurants shift to using more frozen venison in recent months to hedge their bets against supply disruption or lower numbers of diners.”

In the United States, restaurant table bookings are now on a par with where they were at the same time in 2019. Hyatt Resorts have reported that 2021 festive season bookings are 25 per cent above 2019 levels and a survey by Deloitte has found that four out of 10 Americans are planning to travel between Thanksgiving and early January.

“The US has also reopened to vaccinated tourists from around the world and cruise ship operators are seeing demand return. Los Angeles is planning for 200 cruise ships in 2022, the highest number since 2008. They are operating with reduced capacity but with seemingly good hygiene and social distancing rules in place. All of which should give boost to the restaurant sector,” Taylor says.

In the United States, venison marketers are reporting good growth in sales of farm-raised venison through supermarkets and on-line. US retail is a new channel for the industry and is one that has been a major focus of industry market development in the last 12 months.

“After a promising start, the companies are reporting a steady increase in sales and an expansion in the number of stores stocking their products,” Taylor says.

“The entry product has been ground venison, which is a format that consumers are familiar with and are confident to cook at home. Success with ground venison is now allowing the companies to get shelf-space for more items, such as venison medallions.”

Silver Fern Farms group sales manager Peter Robinson says the company is seeing a slow recovery in venison demand in traditional channels and growing demand in some of the new channels in which it has been investing, like US retail and China. 

“We expect to see this positive recovery continue into 2022. What is really encouraging is the growth in new demand for venison. It is this demand that gives us the best opportunity to build sustainable value for venison farmers,” Robinson says.

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