Central Hawke's Bay farmers Evan and Linda Potter have won the premier Elworthy Award in the deer industry’s 2019 environmental awards.
The Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) annual report says the Arby’s restaurant chain created a social media storm with the promotion, so successful in 2016 that it was repeated last year.
American media reported at the time that some hunting groups were unhappy that game animals were being sold for food; but the meat being used was NZ farmed venison.
DINZ chief executive Dan Coup, speaking after the sector’s recent national conference, says the deer industry was very positive.
“It was a really good conference. Probably the most enthusiastic and positive one we’ve had in a long time.”
The venison price at the moment is “fantastic,” he told Rural News.
“Eleven bucks. I think that’s an all-time high. Anyone with deer to kill is pretty happy. And velvet prices are very solid as well.”
Coup says the high prices were partly because of a fall in the kill following a period of low confidence with a lot of capital stock liquidation.
“Those cull animals have stopped going through the works, and we’ve dropped over two or three years from a kill that sat around 400,000 for a long time to around 300,000 now.”
But venison marketers had also been working hard, he says.
“They’ve diversified a lot of product out of the traditional market for us, which is Continental Europe, and into particularly North America.
“The North American stuff is a combination of solid growth in our traditional white tablecloth-type middle cuts, but also excitement about gourmet and exotic burgers, with a lean and very natural product.”
There is also growth in protein snacks “associated with people’s paleo enthusiasm,” he adds.
Even petfood had pushed up the schedule, because of enthusiasm for low fat, hypo allergenic and natural food for dogs and cats.
Coup says this year’s conference theme was ‘Staying ahead of the game’.
“The feeling in the camp is that we’re in good shape, but have to keep working hard.”
He says coming challenges for the industry include environmental, climate change and biodiversity legislation.
Coup believes deer farming tends to fly under the radar because the industry is already a good performer and a proactive manager of environmental challenges.