Fallow deer could soon be a regular menu item across Tasmania

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Utilising wild deer for game meat has always been a no brainer for hunters. Over the past year fallow numbers have been in the Tasmanian headlines as academics predict population explosions of up to one million deer. 

As game meat makes a resurgence in Australia, the Tasmanian State Government is considering a management strategy that will gauge the potential of hunting the species for commercial gain.

Local game meat producers and chefs have already indicated their support for the move, with 20 chefs signing a petition attached to Lenah Game Meats’ submission to the recent Upper House inquiry into deer management.

“Based on past sales history and supplemented by a very modest promo campaign, Lenah believes it can sell 1.5 tonne a month of wild-harvested boneless venison within Tasmania and another three tonne interstate,” John Kelly, from Lenah Games Meat, said in his submission.

“This equates to the meat from 5400 deer and would generate 18 full-time jobs. A more aggressive campaign could easily increase this.”

 The State Government today released its response to the inquiry. It includes launching a census of the wild deer population next year which would also seek to determine how many are in Tasmania’s wilderness areas.

 The Tasmania Mercury reported Mr Kelly said Lenah Game Meats used to get venison from local deer farms but most were now out of business and the supply was “almost non-existent”.

The processor has resorted to importing from the mainland and New Zealand.

Under the Government’s strategy, limited numbers of wild deer would be allowed to be taken and a new Tasmanian Game Council would decide if that would be through shooting and field dressing or capturing and then transporting live deer to processing plants.

Lenah Meats maintains they need to be killed in the wild as stress has an adverse impact on meat quality.

The new Tasmanian Game Council would be made up of hunters, farmers, deer farmers and conservationists.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association said fallow deer caused annual damages of $13,500 per landowner in high-population areas.

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said a small group of interested landholders would be identified to work with local meat processors on a venison trial.

He said the existing deer farming industry would be better supported with branding, marketing, processing opportunities and product integrity, but hunted wild deer could also soon be on dinner plates.

“The new Game Council is set to advise on the feasibility of a limited trial using special permits for deer farmers and landholders to supply wild deer products for the regulated food or restaurant trade,” he said.

“The Hodgman Government’s approach to deer will also align with Tasmania’s Sustainable Agri-Food Plan and our target to grow the value of agriculture to $10 billion by 2050.”

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