Whether you shoot wild game only for your own private consumption, give the game away to guns, beaters, family and friends or run a commercial shoot that provides its guns with bird in feather or breasted, the advice around game handling is the same.
We took the time to speak to Tim Weston, at the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, who organises a timetable of Game Meat Hygiene courses for members:
“Good game handling is not just important to produce the best possible product, it is also a legal requirement. Under UK law you have a responsibility to produce safe food from start to finish. Registering with your local authority is also a legal requirement and all those who supply game through any source must be aware of their legal responsibilities. The Food Standards Agency Wild Game Meat Guide is the document to follow and a wild game meat hygiene course is also essential when supplying large or small game.”
The NGO provides accredited courses. Details of the course and dates can be found on the NGO website and we recommend attending one if you are unsure.
Nick James of WilloGame, a BGA registered processor said,
“Game is a wonderful source of nutritious food and, just like food, it needs to be handled correctly. At WilloGame we have seen an improvement from the initial 17% wastage brought about by poor handling in the field. This has been achieved by our own strict audit trail, by our high quality standards, where we are able to advise individual shoots and also by the BGA’s excellent in field initiative.”
“Wet or warm weather can amplify poor handling further, so it is vital that shoot organisers drive home this message. From guns to pickers up, from field to chiller, it is vital that everything is carried out correctly. Only when birds are plucked can one really assess what the quality really is – one is dealing with a natural food after all so it needs to be handled with care and respect.”
Following our two seasons of audits, we have noted some of the most common non-compliances noticed by our audit team – a specialist team from Lloyds Register, which is the independent inspection and certification body that carries out BGA Audits. As well as a good background in shooting and agriculture, they have received specialist training from the GWCT. These non-compliances are all generally small processes that can be adjusted to easily comply.
- Not being registered with the Environmental Health Department of Local Authority as a Food Business.
This is easily solved and is a legal requirement in most circumstances. The shoot should contact the Environmental Health Department of their Local Authority to register as a Food Business.
- Switching your chiller on 24 hours before use
It is important to switch your chiller on 24 hours before it is going to be used, to ensure it is cold enough for the birds that are placed inside after the first drive of the day. If you switch it on less than this, it may not be cold enough in time.
- Not recording temperatures at least twice daily when a chiller is in use on a shoot.
Not all shoots require a chiller, for example if your game is for personal consumption, this is not required. If you are selling your game, your shoot requires a chiller and the temperature must be recorded twice daily. This can be easily resolved by buying a temperature logger from websites such as Amazon for around £30. Written records are also acceptable.
- Ensuring the birds have cooled down before using the chiller
As well as checking the temperature, it is important that the birds have had time to cool before placing them in the chiller, if they are still warm, they can risk heating up the chiller and causing problems with the temperature.
- Fixtures and Fittings in the Larder/Chiller
Fixtures and fittings in the in a larder and/chiller must be made of impervious, non-absorbent, washable and nontoxic materials. Metal work must be clean and free of rust. Wooden rails or battens are not acceptable. Floors must be well maintained – no peeling paint, free from cracks, joints with walls sealed. Doors and windows well maintained and vermin proof. Lighting protected or shatterproof bulbs used.
The BGA welcomes all shoots of all sizes to join. For more information on how to sign up a shoot, become a supporter or the audit process, please visit www.britishgamealliance.co.uk.