Set to open for business later this month, the venison plant in Maldon has been expanded by 112sq m, making it the largest of its type in the country.
As part of the extension, the business has increased the chiller space for hanging carcases from 450 to 1,500, its skinning area has been expanded from 15sq m to 45sq m and the processing area has been doubled from 25sq m to 50sq m.
The project, which cost £350,000, took six months from inception to completion. Speaking to Food Manufacture, commercial director Paul Scott said he expected it to increase venison throughput by 30-35%, which would bring the carcase total to around 50,000 for the season.
He said this expansion would enable Ben Rigby Game to supply venison more efficiently, especially when supply was tight, and help the business grow its overseas presence. “There is demand for the product, but often not enough to go around – this expansion will allow us to do more of the same, but more efficiently. It will improve the flow and speed of the production line.
“We’re continually bringing new clients on-board from the food manufacturing, foodservice and wholesale industries. We also have a thriving export business supplying customers worldwide.”
The extension is also expected to increase the workforce at the facility. Currently 50 people work at the plant. “We’ve doubled the length of our processing area, allowing us to get more people working on the production line. That’s more skinners, butchers and packers.”
Scott added that Brexit could have a positive impact on domestic venison production. “We’re not sure what will happen following Brexit, but it’s likely that the cost of imported venison will increase, at least temporarily. The UK is currently importing huge volumes of New Zealand-origin venison and exporting high volumes of UK-origin [product] – the imports exceed the exports – so there’s still room in the home market for our great UK product.”
However, he was less optimistic about small game. “The demand for venison is increasing year-on-year. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the small game industry, which is in decline. There is a big push from different sectors of the industry to increase demand for small game – whether these will be successful, we’ll have to wait and see.”