Impressive increase in deer velvet quality

Impressive increase in deer velvet quality

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A scientific study has shown that the quality of NZ deer antler velvet has greatly improved in the last three decades. It contains more of the lipids and proteins that are linked to the bioactivity of deer velvet products and their value as natural health foods.

In the study, funded by the deer industry and AgResearch, velvet antler harvested from red and elk/wapiti deer in the 2018/19 season was analysed and the results compared with a 1991 study. This showed the average velvet antler today is of higher quality than the best of the antlers analysed in the earlier study.

The valuable upper portion of the antler made up 25 per cent more of the whole antler than it did in the earlier study. Overall lipids increased by 4 per cent and proteins by 25 per cent. Velvet antler from the two breeds of deer farmed for velvet in New Zealand – red and elk/wapiti deer – was shown to be essentially the same in terms of composition.

AgResearch scientist Stephen Haines, who led the study, says the impressive progress deer farmers have made increasing antler size has been matched by equally impressive improvements in velvet composition.

Deer Industry NZ chief executive Innes Moffat says deer farmers should be proud of what they have achieved.

“They have made huge efforts to improve the quality of all aspects of velvet production. Stag genetics, welfare and nutrition are light years ahead of where they were 30 years ago. Harvest hygiene and cool chain improvements ensure quality is maintained all the way from the stag to the processor.”  

He says deer velvet is a unique animal product that regrows each year. It is humanely removed from stags run largely in specialist velvet producing herds on New Zealand deer farms. It is also produced in Australia, China, Russia, North America and other places.

“Velvet is a cornerstone – along with ginseng – of traditional Chinese and Korean medicine, with a reputation going back thousands of years. It has also been the subject of several small scientific studies. These indicate that velvet-based products may have a role in reducing arthritic pain, healthy brain ageing, lowering blood pressure, wound healing and recovery from intense physical exertion,” Moffat says.

“The deer industry hopes that the results of these trials will pique the interest of organisations with the resources needed to fund proper randomised clinical trials.”

Moffat says health food companies in Korea have in the last few years developed a range of velvet-based products for a new generation of consumers.

“One popular product is formulated for students to provide an energy boost during busy exam times. Like a healthy “Red Bull”. Building immune function and combatting fatigue are other functions that attract consumers to these contemporary products,” he says.

“These new products have greatly expanded the market for velvet during the past decade. However demand and prices now appear to have plateaued, which means we not looking for new producers to enter the industry.”

The AgResearch study also showed that the industry grading standards, which are based on market preference, are scientifically valid.

“Velvet cut at the correct time was higher in the lipids and low molecular weight proteins that are linked to the bioactivity of velvet than velvet cut 7 days and 14 days later than the industry standard.”

The quality of the average velvet cut today is higher than our best velvet was 30 years ago. It contains more of the lipids and proteins that are linked to the bioactivity of deer velvet products and their value as natural health foods