There are no adjectives left to describe 2020. The thesaurus is exhausted. It has been a challenging time for the BGA, but a far more challenging time for our members. We have worked hard to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and to help our Member Shoots and Game Farms, registered processors and stockists do the same. We have promoted game in a whole new way, encouraging people to bring it into their kitchens and embrace the box delivery schemes and the Assured game they can now find in their supermarkets. We have built strong ties with Defra and given the game sector a seat at the table at which food and farming policy is discussed. And we have expanded Assurance to encompass game farming, helping safeguard the future of shooting by growing the availability of credible self-regulation.
The Launch of the Game Farm Assurance Scheme
The BGA’s Game Farm Assurance Scheme announced its launch and first members in January. Throughout 2020 innovative, forward-looking game farms embraced the first assurance scheme of its kind for this sector.
Farming practices are under huge political and social scrutiny and game farms are certainly not immune. The best response to such scrutiny is adherence to clear and credible standards of best practice, subject to independent audit. Such schemes are almost universal in other farming sectors and this is what the BGA Game Farm Assurance Scheme offers to the industry, whilst granting members exclusive access to the first validated Mycoplasma Test for game birds. The Scheme also allows BGA Member Shoots to source birds from Assured Game Farms, which in turn further develops the BGA’s ability to market and sell a fully assured and traceable game product to the food industry.
In response to the Covid-19 outbreak the BGA alongside Dylan Williams and Fieldsports Journal launched a short-term fundraising initiative called Game Aid to deliver free game meat-based meal bags to frontline NHS workers in the country’s hour of need. This initiative was established solely to assist NHS frontline staff during the Covid-19 epidemic with over 5,000 meal bags delivered to frontline NHS staff. Residual funds from the initiative were donated to the Country Food Trust to help them continue their sterling efforts to feed those in need.
BGA welcomes Liam Stokes as CEO
The appointment of Liam Stokes as the new Chief Executive Officer was announced on 20th February. The team was delighted to welcome Liam, who has dedicated his career to the countryside. Prior to joining the BGA, Liam was senior Leader for Farming Sector Policy at DEFRA, where he worked at the heart of future food and farming policy. Liam spent 2019 briefing Ministers and liaising with departments across the Government as his teams developed strategy, policy and legislation for the farming sectors as we prepared to exit the EU. He had previously worked for the Countryside Alliance and the GWCT, taught gamekeeping at Lackham and served on the BASC England Committee.
Speaking at the time, Liam said “I have been passionate about the mission of the British Game Alliance since its launch. The manifold benefits of game shooting can only be realised if there is a sustainable market for game meat, and such a market can only exist if underpinned by credible shoot assurance. BGA members boast the highest welfare and environmental standards in the rearing and sale of game meat and are trailblazers for the future of sustainable shooting and game meat production. The shooting sector uniting behind the BGA’s unique shoot and game farm assurance schemes is a landmark moment in the development of game shooting and the game meat market, and it is a privilege to be appointed CEO at this vital time.”
The Rise of the Game Box Delivery
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the BGA has been supporting its registered stockists and processors promote new routes to market. At the peak of the first lockdown many game meat processors and stockists rose to the challenge and provided home delivery services nationwide, boosting game meat sales during a time when other retailers and hospitality businesses were forced to close. These game box deliveries have continued to grow in popularity throughout the year all the way up to Christmas.
Due to the BGA’s role in promoting and assuring the production and consumption of game meat, the BGA was proud to to be part of two critical Defra food and farming groups throughout 2020 helping our sector liaise with Government during the COVID crisis and Brexit preparations. Both groups are key stakeholder forums in which Defra shares updates and requests intelligence from the industry and so having a seat at the table was an unprecedented step forward for the BGA and for the game shooting sector. Never before had the game meat sector been represented alongside other food producing industries on these groups.
The Mac & Wild x BGA Grouse Cooking Kit
The BGA’s campaigns throughout 2020 focussed on bringing game into the home, and the grouse season was no different. In August, the BGA partnered with London-based, Scottish restaurant and butcher Mac & Wild to create Grouse Cooking Kits for The Glorious Twelfth. The grouse kits were featured in mainstream press including the London Evening Standard as an alternative for people who couldn’t or wouldn’t head out to enjoy seasonal grouse in a restaurant, which was precisely the message we wanted to spread, broadening access to British game.
Each Cooking Kit included a brace of Grouse, sourced from BGA registered processor Ardgay Game in Scotland, to celebrate the Scottish heritage of the bird in harmony with Mac & Wild’s ethos as a business. By using BGA assured grouse, Mac & Wild was confident it was providing its customers with peace of mind that the meat has been sustainably harvested and produced to high environmental and welfare standards.
BGA Assured Game in Sainsbury’s
As of October this year and for the first time in a major supermarket, the British Game Alliance logo can now be found on game meat products sold in Sainsbury’s supermarkets across the country, reassuring customers of the provenance of the game meat they are buying.
The game products are produced by BGA stockist Holme Farmed Venison, based in North Yorkshire, and include Pheasant Breast Fillets and Diced Game Casserole Mix – Venison, Pheasant and Partridge diced in-season. An estimated half a million birds will find their way into these products, which will feature the BGA logo on their packaging, and be available in stores from 21st October 2020.
Liam Stokes, BGA Chief Exec said, “This represents a huge step forward for game meat. The sector has introduced and embraced independent assurance, and the public can now see the results of those efforts and find assured game on their supermarket shelves. Sainsbury’s shoppers can now try tasty, healthy game meat, confident in the knowledge that it has come from an assured source.”
Great British Game Week
Great British Game Week took place during the nationwide lockdown in England, so the British Game Alliance focussed on bringing game into the home, using online channels to reach unprecedented numbers of people.
A Game Week (3rd-29th November) during a time of regional and national lockdowns gave the BGA the opportunity to talk about game in a whole new context. In many places no shooting was taking place, and so this Game Week focussed on reaching new audiences and encouraging them to seek out new and interesting game products and recipes. Throughout the week the BGA closely monitored online activity to gauge public interest in the many recipes, pictures and game creations posted by the BGA, EatWild and our followers, partners and supporters.
The BGA sought the help of some ‘foodie influencers’, well-followed accounts on social media, and saw a huge spike in online engagement with game meat. These ’influencers’, all from outside the traditional game shooting and cooking community, had a combined following of 79,000 people, reaching a brand-new audience with their game recipes, while content on the BGA’s own account was seen by nearly 50,000 people.
2020 has been a tumultuous year but we are looking forward to the year ahead; two very exciting announcements which we will be able to announce soon and the hope of returning to normality next season.