Low in fat, high in protein and bursting with iron and vitamins, venison is in vogue. Gayle Ritchie meets a Perth businesswoman who’s changing perceptions
There were plenty of excuses for not eating venison a decade or so ago.
For some people, the meat was too “posh”.
Others were put off by images of Landseer and Bambi. It didn’t help that it wasn’t that widely available.
Now it’s gaining fans left, right and centre and Perth-based Seriously Good Venison can take a large part of the credit.
Director Vikki Banks says health and taste reasons make venison an increasingly popular choice – whether it’s wild or farmed.
“We’ve converted many a venison-sceptic with education and great cooking instructions,” she says.
“All of our sausages, burgers, lorne, haggis and black pudding are gluten-free and we’re the first people in the UK (as far as we know) to make venison black pudding using fresh blood, which is very rare these days.”
Still not convinced? Vikki’s just getting started.
“Venison is low in fat and a prime cut will contain less fat than skinless chicken,” she adds. “It’s also a fantastic source of protein, has twice as much iron as other red meats and is high in essential omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins B6 and B12. It’s not tricky to cook and it’s extremely versatile.”
Vikki previously worked as general manager for Fletchers of Auchtermuchty, run by John and Nichola Fletcher, who opened the first deer farm in Scotland in 1973.
She bought the retail side of the business from the couple in 2012 after striking up a partnership with local businessman and investor John Kettles.
The company now produces venison and game pies, sausage rolls, fresh venison blood black pudding, lorne sausage, sausages and a gluten-free range. Chorizo, smoked and jerky venison products are coming soon. Oh, and the team also do outdoor and event catering using their retro truck, Bella.
The “street food” offerings include venison stovies, kofta wraps, chilli, sausage rolls and pulled venison pies with a sweet potato topping, not to mention the trademark veniburgers.
The venison comes from both wild and farmed deer – the latter supplied by Bob Prentice, from Downfield Farm near Cupar.
“The farm runs a free-range, grass-based system and our deer don’t need high-energy cereals to fatten them although a little wheat is given to calves to keep them healthy during winter,” explains Vikki.
“Bob spent a lot of time at the Fletchers’ farm, learning about deer carcass preparation and there’s an onsite abattoir at Downfield which means there’s no need to transport the deer so no unnecessary stress caused to the animals.
“The wild deer are sourced from local Scottish estates where we know they’re eating the natural fodder of heather, blaeberries, grasses and so on. These have a much stronger taste and it’s a beautiful product which some people prefer to the sweeter farmed venison flavour.”
The deer are killed and dressed onsite then delivered to the company’s Seriously Good Butchery to hang for 10 to 14 days.
After being butchered the meat is sold online, as well as at farmers’ markets, game fairs, shows and events.
For anyone still anxious about how to cook venison, Vikki insists it couldn’t be simpler.
“Anything you can cook with beef or lamb, you can cook with venison, although a little more care is needed with steaks and roasts as the meat is so lean that if you overcook it, you risk letting it dry out.
“A slow-cooked venison stew is to die for. Add veg to give a complete meal and cover with a puff pastry top. Seriously good!”