Bid to process venison on island

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A new island business is to start producing venison for sale direct to mainland markets.

A new processing plant and deer larder is being proposed at the Arran Estates offices at Douglas Park in Brodick.

The idea is to process the venison on the island, close to its source, add value to a locally sourced, healthy food product for export to the mainland and to create new skilled jobs on Arran. As a result a new company, Arran Venison Ltd, has been incorporated for this purpose and to raise the island’s profile still further.

It would see the siting of four pre-fabricated modular units to the rear of an existing workshop to enable the processing of locally sourced meat and the plan are under consideration by North Ayrshire Council.

Sannox Estate converted part of a former food factory adjacent to the Estate Office to form a deer larder and chill-room for its own use in the 1970s, when the estate’s deer annual cull was between 150 and 200 deer per year, this now serves as a communal chill and collection point for Dougarie Estate, Forestry and Land Scotland and vocational hunters. It now has an annual throughput of about 400 deer.

There are natural peaks and troughs in the deer cull, notwithstanding the annual closed seasons but it was found that the chill-room was often working to or occasionally above its proper capacity and this problem has been exacerbated in recent years due to poor ferry reliability, missed collections when the dealers transport could not obtain a place, poor weather, harbour ramps breaking down, etc. when the cull programme had to be suspended and eventually the target cull not being reached by the end of the season – and greater numbers of deer being shot.

It was determined that the construction of a larger or alternative chill-room would not necessarily solve the problem, in itself, and the producers would still be at the mercy of the ferry, the dealer’s transport and dealers wholesale prices.

This application has been designed in consultation with Food Standards Scotland. The new facility is close to the existing one, which will become exclusively used by Forestry and Land Scotland, who are tied into a long-term contract with Highland Game and cannot therefore supply Arran Venison Ltd.

A supporting statement with the planning application states: ‘We anticipate 350 carcasses from Sannox and Arran Estates, 100 from Dougarie Estate and at least 50 from various vocational hunters. In the event that FLS decide that they can add to this, there could be a further 200. Deer numbers on the island are increasing year on year and they are becoming a problem but the added benefits should remain on the island.’

Arran Estates were asked for a comment but failed to respond.