The Overlooked Healthy Option

When news broke in February that the NHS was including venison in its hospital menus, it confirmed what those of us working in the meat industry have known for a long while – the health benefits of venison meat.

East Lancashire Hospitals Trust has received praise from its patients for its catering after introducing wild venison dishes, a result of a new initiative between the hospital and Forestry England.

The Trust has been serving meat from Forest of Bowland, just 13 miles away, thanks to a partnership with the Government agency which manages 250,000 hectares of English woodland

High in B vitamins, protein and iron, and very low in fat, the benefits of eating deer meat make venison one of the healthiest and most sustainable meats.

Due to the fact that deer have no natural predators in the UK, some 15,000 deer need to be culled by Forestry England each year, but the downturn in demand for venison after Brexit meant the organisation had to cut back until new outlets could be found for the meat.

‘It’s fantastic that we’re feeding NHS patients from the nation’s forests,’ said Forestry England’s lead wildlife manager Nigel Foster. ‘Venison is lean, it’s full of vitamins, and it’s wild. And managing the deer is great for biodiversity and forest conditions.’

The agency worked with DB Foods venison meat suppliers to provide dishes such as venison pie and casseroles which have been the most chosen items by patients since they first appeared on menus in 2021.

‘As wholesale venison suppliers, we know there are a huge number of deer meat health benefits,’ says Stuart Robson, Purchasing and Trading Director of DB Foods. ‘For a hospital to be taking advantage of these venison health benefits and engaging with local venison suppliers makes perfect sense.’

Forestry England has already rolled the service out to four more hospital Trusts, with plans to expand to a further 20 this year.

‘Since patients are clearly getting a taste for venison, I should imagine more organisations will be asking ‘are there venison suppliers near me?’, says Stuart. ‘The deer meat benefits from this sort of exposure, venison and game suppliers see an increase in demand and people can enjoy a delicious, sustainable source of meat. It really is a win-win situation.’