Fact check for Angus Glens Moorland Group – red grouse are NOT organic

Dear oh dear. It’s only been six weeks since Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie was told by Perthshire Council’s Food Standards Officer to stop referring to red grouse as being organic (see here), and yet now the Angus Glens Moorland Group Coordinator is claiming that red grouse are “100% organic“.

Lianne MacLennan was quoted in the Dundee Courier (Food & drink section, 12th August 2017) – see here. She also made an astonishing claim that “The progeny of the product can be traced directly – right down to which part of the hill it was bred and shot on, at which hour of the day and, sometimes even, by whom“.

Really? That might be true if the grouse is immediately cooked at a shooting hut on the day, but for the hundreds of thousands of grouse that are sold on to game dealers, that is patently untrue. We know, because we’ve previously bought red grouse from several game dealers (to test it for lead shot) and in each case, the game dealer was unable to tell us even from which county the bird originated, let alone which estate, which moor, which hill slope, what month, what day, what time and by whom it was shot.

Here’s a quick recap for Lianne about the organic status of red grouse, because either she missed it first time around or has chosen to ignore the facts and just lie:

According to DEFRA’s guidance on organic farming,

  • You must register with an organic control body if you’re going to produce, prepare, store, import or sell organic products;
  • You’re breaking the law if you call a food product ‘organic’ if it hasn’t been inspected and certified by one of the UK’s nine organic control bodies.

We know from our earlier research that there isn’t a single grouse moor in the Angus Glens (or anywhere else in the UK for that matter) that is registered/certified as an organic producer. Therefore, red grouse cannot be described as being organic, nor “100% organic”.

We also know that red grouse may contain any or all of the following:

  • Excessive quantities of toxic poisonous lead (sometimes over 100 times the lead levels that would be legal for other meat – see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Flubendazole (see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Levamisole hydrochloride (also used in chemotherapy treatment for humans with colon cancer – see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the pesticide Permethrin (used topically to treat scabies and pubic lice; probably not that great to ingest) – see here
  • Red grouse may also be diseased with Cryptosporidiosis (see here).

Does that sound “100% organic” or does it sound hazardously toxic and potentially unsafe?

We also know that red grouse are not routinely Government-tested for any of these toxic ingredients. For some strange reason, all gamebirds are exempt from testing for poisonous lead. Gamebirds are not exempt from testing for illegal residues of veterinary medicines, although in 2015 we discovered that red grouse had never been tested because Government officials “didn’t know where to find them“. Last year, for the first time ever and only after considerable pressure from us, DEFRA’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate agreed to test shot red grouse for illegal residues of veterinary medicines. They managed to test a total of six birds (2 from Scotland, 4 from England) out of an estimated 700,000 shot birds, and they couldn’t even tell us from which estates these six birds originated.

Lianne is further quoted: “In recent years, supermarkets have taken to stocking grouse during the season“. That’s true, but she missed an important bit off the end – ‘but have since withdrawn the product due to concerns about meeting the requirements of their Responsible Sourcing Codes’.

Thanks to Mr Carbo for this cartoon:

13 thoughts on “Fact check for Angus Glens Moorland Group – red grouse are NOT organic”

  1. One can only suggest that this lady is reported to the appropriate authorities over this quite unfounded claim.

  2. I’ve noticed this before within the grouse shooting fraternity, they so want to find something positive about what they do, and they have become delusional over it, they grasp on to the slightest half truth that get mentioned and then this becomes “fact” and it works the other way too. Anything that can be imagined to explain the losses of satellite tagged birds, when the tags are working perfectly well but suddenly cease transmitting (think non-existent wind farms https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/non-existent-windfarms-blamed-for-disappearing-eagles-in-monadhliaths/ ).

  3. I think to be honest they will just hide behind the fact that the claim was not made directly at the point of sale. I just find it amusing that anything written by the pro grouse lobby now includes spurious references to waders and jobs. There is never any attempt to defend their other activities however.

        1. Eh? “has no bearing”? What a strange thing to say. Please expand.
          If it’s derived completely from the plant as the insecticide pyrethrum then, in low doses, it used to be (and I presume still is) the only insecticide considered ‘organic’. If it’s a pyrethroid (and a synthetically produced product – and usually combined with other chemicals to increase its effectiveness) then it can’t be seen as an organic product.
          Have a look on Wikipedia and notice the warnings issued by various governing organisations on the dangers at various dosages. It’s certainly not something anyone should be ingesting.
          Good to know that the grouse-killing lobby has a look on here from time to time!

  4. Emma you dismiss any concerns whatsoever on the safety of Pyrethroid treatments, yet numerous studies over many years including 2017 have questioned safety of this chemical.
    As you will be well aware, the unborn child is most vulnerable to environmental pollutants , including of course that ingested by the mother in food, -and some chemicals can affect development even at dilutions of a million to one
    Studies have queried a link between pyrethroid and. developmental disorders, ADHD, autism, premature puberty ( associated with stunted growth, testicular cancer etc), endocrine disorders, with a suggested link to breast cancer, and brain cancer in children and young adults. No definite link has been made between pyrethroid exposure and any of the above conditions, but many calls for more research. It is of course notoriously difficult to pinpoint definite causal effect , as so clearly seen with smoking , where decades of research was needed before Peto finally gathered the evidence of the association with lung cancer which put the matter beyond dispute.

    To state that exposure to Pyrethroid treated birds is of ‘no concern’ , and call these birds ‘organic’ , is indeed most revealing

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