Have you ever wondered why you can’t find venison in your local grocery store?
Despite its popularity during hunting season, venison is not a common sight on supermarket shelves. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this and delve into the laws and regulations surrounding the sale of wild game meat.
From the public trust doctrine to inspection requirements, we’ll uncover the complexities of the issue and shed light on why you might have to go hunting if you want a taste of this lean and flavorful meat.
Why Can’t You Buy Venison In Stores?
There are a few reasons why you can’t buy venison in stores. Firstly, the public trust doctrine dictates that wildlife is a public trust resource and should not be sold for private commercial profit. This means that unlike livestock, wildlife belongs to everyone and should not be sold for profit.
Additionally, there are laws prohibiting the sale of uninspected wild game meat. If wild game meat has not received a mark of inspection by a state or federal inspection program, or it has not been legally imported, then its sale is illegal within the United States. Game meats that do not have a mark of inspection cannot be sold, which includes game meat harvested by recreational hunters.
Furthermore, meat from “game animals” as defined by state wildlife agencies that are harvested within that state cannot be sold. The restrictions and definitions vary from state to state, but in most states native species like whitetail deer are deemed to be “game animals” while non-native species have different classifications, usually deemed “livestock.” If it is restricted then it will not be inspected and cannot be sold. However, if it is inspected then that is assurance that it is legal to sell.
The Public Trust Doctrine And Wild Game Meat
The public trust doctrine is a guiding principle of conservation movements in North America, which states that wildlife is a public trust resource and should not be sold for private commercial profit. This means that unlike livestock, wildlife belongs to everyone and should not be sold for profit. The basic idea is that wildlife is owned by the public, and therefore, it should not be privatized or sold for commercial purposes.
This doctrine has been a major reason why the commercial sale of wild game meats is illegal in the United States. Wild game meat cannot be sold commercially because it is considered a public trust resource and should not be sold for private commercial profit. This means that the venison and buffalo meat you might encounter in your culinary education – contrary to what many people believe – is raised on a ranch or plantation as livestock prior to being sold to consumers and chefs.
While some argue that the legalization of the commercial sale of wild game meats could benefit hunters and rural communities, many environmentalists are concerned about the impact it could have on wildlife populations. They argue that allowing the commercial sale of wild venison meat would encourage overhunting and could lead to the abuse of natural resources.
Inspection And Safety Regulations For Wild Game Meat
When it comes to purchasing wild game meat, it is important to ensure that it has been adequately inspected for wholesomeness and sanitation. Unfortunately, not all wild game meat available for purchase is inspected. This can pose a serious health risk to consumers who consume the meat.
To determine if the meat you are buying is fully inspected, it is important to check for a mark of inspection by a state or federal inspection program. If the meat has not received this mark, then it is illegal to sell within the United States. It is also important to note that meat from “game animals” as defined by state wildlife agencies that are harvested within that state cannot be sold.
When purchasing wild game meat, it is important to avoid abdominal shots as they can lead to contamination of the meat and cause unnecessary suffering for the animal. If any intestinal contents come into contact with the meat, it should be considered contaminated and should be cut off and discarded. It is also important not to feed contaminated meat to other animals as they may become infected.
To aid in cooling the carcass in warm weather, the animal may be skinned if you have provisions to keep the carcass clean. It is recommended to use ground pepper and cheesecloth or light cotton bags to protect the skinned carcass from contamination by flies. However, it is important not to use airtight game-bags or tarps that hold in heat and will cause the meat to spoil rapidly.
The Challenges Of Commercializing Venison
One of the biggest challenges of commercializing venison is the issue of overabundant deer populations. While there is a solution to this problem, wildlife managers are reluctant to consider it due to competition with long-standing constituencies like deer hunters and deer farmers. The foremost difficulty in implementing a commercial harvest of deer is the human perspective. Many people believe that wildlife is a public trust resource and should not be sold for private commercial profit. Additionally, there are laws prohibiting the sale of uninspected wild game meat, which means that game meat harvested by recreational hunters cannot be sold.
Another challenge is the risk of disease transmission between captive and wild deer populations. Captive breeding farms raise deer in particularly high densities for meat, antler velvet, and even for captive hunting opportunities. Animals that escape from deer farms or nose-to-nose interactions between captive and wild deer through fencing provide the most important pathways for transmission. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a major concern for captive deer populations, as there is no live test for CWD and symptoms may not show up for several years, if ever. This means that deer farms could have infected deer with no way of detecting the disease, which poses a risk to both human health and wildlife populations.
The Rise Of Alternative Venison Sources
Despite the restrictions on selling wild game meat, there are alternative sources of venison available for consumers. One such source is farmed deer, which is available in many supermarkets in the form of frozen venison cuts. In fact, Dundee-based wild venison supplier Highland Game has been championing the meat as a healthy alternative to other red meats for more than 20 years. Highland Game wants to increase food-at-home consumer demand for venison by growing the availability of the healthy meat option in supermarkets across the UK.
The demand for alternative protein sources has also led to a rise in deer farms in the United States. As consumers look for alternatives to conventional meat, both for health and environmental sustainability, the U.S. deer market has seen increases of up to 30 percent annually. The cervid livestock industry, which encompasses elk, reindeer, axis, sika, red, whitetail and fallow deer, is one of the fastest-growing industries in rural America.
In addition to farmed deer, there are also options for hunting preserves where hunters can pay a fee to hunt deer and other game animals on private land. These preserves often offer a more controlled environment and higher quality meat than wild game, as the animals are raised specifically for hunting purposes and are typically fed a controlled diet.
The Future Of Venison In The Marketplace
Despite the current restrictions on the sale of venison, the future of the venison market looks promising. According to market research, the value of the venison market is projected to grow in the coming years. This growth is attributed to successful market development in countries like China and the United States.
The Passion2Profit (P2P) strategy, which aimed to increase farm profitability by developing new markets for venison, has been a major contributor to this growth. The P2P programme has resulted in increased productivity on deer farms and the development of major new markets for venison.
In China, venison exports have increased significantly since the start of the P2P programme, making it the industry’s fourth biggest venison market. In the United States, venison sales are growing faster than any other protein item, which is a significant breakthrough for the industry.
Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, which caused prices to almost halve due to the shutdown of the global foodservice sector, venison marketers have done a fabulous job pivoting to retail. With prices well on their way to recovering, it is clear that there is great potential for growth in the venison market.
Moreover, there are creative new retail venison marketing initiatives being developed for North America, which shows that the industry is not just waiting for markets to recover. This innovation and adaptability bodes well for the future of the venison market.