Freddie Tulloch runs a commercial shoot in the Lambourn Valley. With a large area, suitable topography and an excellent head gamekeeper in Bruce Lindley, it is a hugely successful enterprise. The Queen’s Arms and a fine shoot lodge opposite offer fine hospitality.
But, by the end of last season, Freddie was concerned about whether the increasing amount of game shot in this country was entering the food chain. His birds are all sold through Hampshire Game but there have been reports of some shoots struggling to find an outlet for human consumption. He came up with an idea he called Responsible Game whereby shoots that guarantee that their birds go into the human food chain would have a logo proclaiming the fact. He spoke to a number of other estate owners who were happy to participate.
In the event, his initiative was overtaken by the launch of the British Game Alliance in May. Described in detail in this column in June, the BGA is an assurance scheme for game, similar to Red Tractor and run by the same people. It is also a game marketing board determined to increase the consumption of game in this country and export sales to give added value to the game sold by shoots. As such, it encompassed the aim of Freddie’s initiative so he merged his scheme with the BGA and is a strong supporter.
In a complementary move he got together with Mark Hodson, the noted chef and author of Talking Food recipe books, to produce Talking Game. This is a splendid anthology of articles about shooting and related topics interspersed with lots of interesting game recipes from chefs with some provided by individual shoots, all illustrated with stunning photographs. There is, for example, a recipe from the local Kirby shoot and coverage of the Ramsbury brewery and distillery.
I met Freddie recently to discuss his ideas over lunch in the Queen’s Arms. It was a shoot day so we watched a couple of drives until the guns adjourned to the shoot lodge for lunch whilst we went to the pub. The menu was crammed with game dishes: pheasant terrine, partridge goujons, pheasant schnitzel, venison burger and roast partridge. The fare is delicious and extremely popular, which makes one wonder why more pubs do not have similar menus.
To illustrate the point, an event, the Talking Game Fare, was held at the Queen’s Arms last Sunday that attracted a large attendance. There were cooking demonstrations and competitions, trade stands and a dog show. The entries into the competition included many game dishes, home-made beverages such as sloe gin, breads and cakes, even flower arrangements and photographs. Judging was by William Sitwell who, until his recent resignation, was the editor of the Waitrose Food Magazine. It was an important and highly enjoyable occasion that highlighted the best of game meat and other country topics.
This was part of the national Great British Game Week which ran from 19th to 25th November. The Countryside Alliance Game to Eat, BASC’s Taste of Game and the British Game Alliance all supported events to promote the consumption of game following the Eat Game Awards ceremony in London last month.
When asked why people do not eat more game, they answer that they do not know where to buy the game nor how to cook it once purchased. Local butchers sell venison, pheasant and partridge but supermarkets could do a great deal more to promote sales. In these health conscious days, it should be easy to promote game as it is extremely healthy meat from birds and animals that are wild and have been free to roam the countryside. The meat is low in cholesterol and fat, which is largely Omega 3, and contains high levels of Iron and many beneficial nutrients including vitamin E, Beta Carotene, Zinc Vitamin B(6) and Selenium.
Since its launch in May, the British Game Alliance has made excellent progress. Over 300 shoots have now signed up to the assurance scheme with its code of good practice that members have to adhere to. There have been twenty audits so far with another fifty scheduled in the next few weeks. Feedback has been positive with shoot managers saying that the process has been helpful in improving standards. The aim of the audit is to help shoots achieve the standards rather than look for breaches in a heavy-handed manner.
The growth in demand for shooting has been extraordinary and shows no sign of diminishing. But that brings responsibilities to maintain and improve standards, particularly to ensure that the game enters the human food chain and that this wild and healthy meat is enjoyed by many. Those of us who love the sport must support these initiatives and show politicians and the public that we are capable of ensuring high standards of behaviour and animal welfare without the need for imposed regulation.