Britain’s supermarkets are chock-full with ready meals. An estimated 3.5million of them fly off the shelves every day, and we spend £4.7billion a year on the convenience foods.
As shoppers become more health-conscious and time-poor, the quality is improving too. Posh oven meals like Cook and Charlie Bingham rake in huge profits and are growing at a thundering pace. Then there is the new trend for recipe box services like Hello Fresh and Simply Cook, which promise millennials fast and healthy food that they can cook at home.
All of this leaves game produce looking like yesterday’s lunch. People don’t want to chop vegetables, let alone pluck a pheasant.
However, a number of estates in Scotland have cottoned on to this trend in convenient cooking and spotted a gap in the market. Speaking to The Times Alister Laing, estate manager at Glenrinnes in Moray, recounts how he and the managers of neighbouring estates have clubbed together to create a range of ready-to-cook game dinners.
He explained, “We wanted to try to brand our products and give people pies, game sausages, game burgers and oven-ready pheasant and partridge,”.
The initiative has potential ramifications for the entire shooting industry. While speaking to Marc Horne, Mr Laing revealed that 3,000 pheasants, duck and partridge are shot at Glenrinnes each year but often sold for as little as 5p a bird, or simply given away. He explained how “that inspired us to see if we could develop a market for these birds which could benefit us and the whole shooting industry”.
In light of today’s eating trends, the move makes a lot of sense. Game ready-meals would go some way to removing upper-class stigma surrounding dishes like pheasant and partridge, while simultaneously capitalising on recent trends for healthy and convenient cooking. Game birds are generally considered to be higher in protein and lower in fat than chicken - instantly a massive tick for the marketing department.
Britain’s game producers are already trying to expand into new markets. This year birds shot on British moors were exported abroad for the first time, with 250,000 grouse, partridge and pheasant being sold to restaurants in Hong Kong. But we needn’t look so far afield. If estates can successfully rebrand into producers of quality meals at home, then it could see revenues soar and public perception of shooting massively revitalised.