Supermarket Sainsbury’s has a new product on sale this autumn – a mixed game casserole, which apparently is made of 50% venison and 50% pheasant and red legged partridge:
[All photos by Ruth Tingay]
It’s being produced by a company called Holme Farm Venison, a company based in North Yorkshire that specialises in venison but also sells gamebirds.
According to the packaging, this product is ‘endorsed’ (ahem) by the British Game Alliance (BGA), whose ‘kitemark’ is stamped on the front:
Some of you may remember the British Game Alliance. It was created a couple of years ago as ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’ and claims on its website, ‘Through our ‘British Game’ assurance scheme we can ensure the provenance of our game meets rigorous and ethical standards‘.
It seems that accuracy and transparency is still an issue for the BGA – where it previously had listed some of its so-called ‘accredited’ members, it has now removed the list from the website:
However, all is not lost if you know where to look. Here’s an example of the BGA logo being advertised on the Guns on Pegs website. This screengrab is the entry for the Bransdale Estate in North Yorkshire, where a police investigation is on-going after the discovery earlier this year of five dead buzzards shoved under a rock, four of them confirmed shot (here) –
It’d be interesting to know whether Sainsbury’s has taken the BGA ‘assurance’ at face value or whether it has actually demanded transparency from its supplier, Holme Farm Venison, and asked from which estates, exactly, it has sourced the pheasants and partridge for this new game casserole.
According to a press release from the BGA last week (see here), the BGA ‘stamp of assurance gives consumers confidence in the traceability, sustainability and quality of the game they eat‘. Really? Well then Sainsbury’s will have no trouble telling its customers all about the exact provenance of these gamebirds.
Which is just as well, because Holme Farm Venison seems a little bit confused about where they’ve come from. Its website first says “all its game products are supplied from our local gamekeeper” (ah, isn’t that all homely and lovely):
But when you actually look at the details of its gamebird products (pheasants and red legged partridge) it says they are supplied by a ‘fully licensed game supplier’:
Who’s that, then? And can they tell us the names of the estates from where these gamebirds have been shot? According to the BGA press release ‘an estimated half a million birds will find their way in to this product‘ – that’s one very busy gamekeeper! The packaging says the birds have been sourced from ‘Traditional UK Estates’ – who’s that?
And talking of shot……lead shot….toxic lead shot…..have these pheasants and partridge been shot with toxic lead ammunition? And if so, how is Sainsbury’s warning its customers that there is no safe level of lead consumption and that consuming lead is especially harmful to children and pregnant women?
Here’s what it says on the packaging:
“Our game is wild, and whilst every effort is made to remove shot from the meat, please be aware, some may remain“.
That’s quite a statement. It doesn’t mention that those ‘wild’ gamebirds have probably been bred, pumped with antibiotics and released in to the British countryside to be shot with toxic lead ammunition. It doesn’t even mention lead! Perhaps they haven’t been shot with toxic lead ammunition after all?
Shall we ask Sainsbury’s? There’s a slogan on Sainsbury’s website that says, ‘We want to be the UK’s most trusted retailer’. Well then there’ll be no problem answering questions about the provenance of these gamebirds and whether they contain toxic lead ammunition, will there?
Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE 3 November 2020: Sainsbury’s not alerting customers to health risk of eating toxic gamebirds (here)
UPDATE 23 November 2020: Sainsbury’s refuses to address concerns about selling potentially toxic gamebirds (here)