The number of deer farmed and slaughtered for venison in Ireland has declined to just 185 in 2018.

This represents a reduction of 75% on 2016 levels when 764 deer where slaughtered for venison production.

There has been year-on-year reductions in the deer herd, with 2017 seeing 271 deer slaughtered.

Sharp decline

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed detailed the sharp decline in the herd in response to a parliamentary question on the viability of the venison market from Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan.

In 1996, there were approximately 500 deer farms with 20,000 deer in Ireland.

There is now only a handful of deer farmers supplying venison for specialised niche markets.

Game and exotic meat typically tend to occupy premium and niche segments of the meat market

Minister Creed said: “The sector is reliant upon producers and companies ensuring that a market exists for their product, an objective which Bord Bia assists in by identifying and developing potential market outlets.”

Exotic meats

He said previous growth in the sector had been achieved as a result of improved distribution of game meats, especially in supermarkets.

Game and exotic meat typically tend to occupy premium and niche segments of the meat market.

Commenting on the sector, Minister Creed said: “Whilst there are opportunities to compete with the larger premium segment of the red meat/poultry categories, it is important to note that demand is seasonal, with the greatest concentration of retail shelf space dedicated to game in the winter/Christmas period.”

Currently, there is one factory approved to slaughter deer in Ireland, with two game-handling plants also approved.

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