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UK’s first new game processing plant in 40 years opens

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Oakland Park willbe the UK's first new game processing plant in 40 years
Oakland Park willbe the UK's first new game processing plant in 40 years
Oakland Park, the UK’s first new game processing facility in 40 years, is due to open in August of this year.

The new 1,100m2 ​facility in Hermitage, West Berkshire will be capable of handling 40,000 deer carcasses a year of all species plus 15,000 gamebirds a week throughout the season.

Its in-skin chilled store, with a capacity of 300 carcasses, leads into a skinning room and onwards into a cutting room which will produce saddles and haunches, plus diced venison and venison trim.

Venison sold via Oakland Park will not be generic, but instead will carry species specific labels, such as red, roe and muntjac. An open day to celebrate the launch will take place on 20 July.

Commenting on the opening of the new plant, Eat Wild chief executive Louisa Clutterbuck said: “This is such huge, exciting news for the industry. Oakland Park is leading the way in venison production and their support of Eat Wild will allow us to continue to spread awareness of the benefits of both venison and feathered game and create new markets for it across the country.

Future-proofing

“I would strongly encourage other processors to heed Oakland Park’s future-proofing example and follow suit.”

The brainchild of estate owner Seton Fairhurst, the plant has been developed jointly by stalker John Prince and business entrepreneur Alan Hayward, who boasts more than 50 years' experience in the butchery and wholesale meat industry.

John Prince added: “As a stalker, so often I would go out over three or four days and maybe put ten deer in the chiller, but then I would find that the dealers would not be taking them. Even if they were, they were driving the market down and offering rock-bottom prices.

“Our whole ethos is to turn that around, and eventually to create a whole new market for game and venison and offer shoots and deer stalkers a fair price for top quality game and carcasses.”

Promoting game

The new facility has pledged support for the wild meat industry as a whole by promising to donate £1.00 per carcass to Eat Wild, the development board for all wild meat in the UK, who work to promote wild meat, secure new markets for it, and ensure a fully sustainable ‘circle of game’.

Alan Hayward continued: “We are not retail butchers; our market is not even individual catering customers – we are selling to the major catering suppliers. We will be providing a range of cuts as well as products like sausages, burgers, meatballs and koftas, and we will also be selling skinned carcasses into the wholesale trade.

“Export is high on the agenda but in simultaneous recognition of the enormous demand from individual stalkers, Oakland Park looks forward to providing a place where the stalker can bring his carcasses, whether just one or two, or in quantity.”

Meanwhile, Welsh game could provide a cheaper, healthier option for hospitals and schools​looking for lean, high protein meat and should be given equal billing to regularly used staples like chicken, beef and lamb, according to the organisers of the Welsh Game Fair.

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