Business based on fair game
A love of hunting – and a taste for wild game – prompted Southland-born Callum Hughes to set up his own business in 2005, centred on sourcing and supplying free-range game meat.
Fare Game now supplies fresh wild game from Southland, Fiordland and Central Otago to restaurants, luxury lodges, delicatessens and wholesalers across New Zealand. Venison is the mainstay of the business, which also supplies wild hare and rabbit.
As Callum observes, the best food starts with the best ingredients, and he reckons it’s hard to beat the taste of fresh venison, in particular.
“Wild venison is definitely not as bland as farmed venison,” he says “You get that subtle venison flavour without it being too overpowering or strong.”
Being able to make a living out of something he enjoys so much is one of the rewards for Callum, who spent around 18 months on planning and preparation ahead of launching the business and bringing it to reality.
Much of the game comes out of national park areas, with wild deer shot from helicopters through Fiordland, But Callum also supplies his fair share via foot slogging hunts into the craggy terrain of Southland and Otago.
“Deer are becoming a pest in many areas; we’re happy for farmers to call us up for help. We can go pretty much anywhere and shoot deer, then put them into a chiller truck that is licensed as an animal-material depot where they can be stored in a controlled environment for up to 96 hours. We bring them down and we’ll pay the farmers for them, so they get a return on it.”
Fare Game has a purpose-built, export-standard processing facility in Invercargill, operating under a risk-management plan registered with the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Eight staff are employed to grade the game as it comes in and then process it into cuts.
“Of course, wild game comes in all shapes and forms. You can’t just bring in 50 standard yearling hinds.” says Callum.
“So, we have to do a fair bit of grading to achieve consistency with size, shape and flavour.”
All wild game is handled in line with food-safety regulations. Refrigerated chiller trucks and the licensed depot system are used to get product to the processing plant in premium condition. Everything is fully traceable through GPS tracking.
“For every deer, we know where it’s come from, what time and date it was shot, who shot it, who was with them, and the time it went into the chiller,” says Callum.
Fare Game strictly follows the rules that come into play when poison such as 1080 has been used.
He also notes the increased use of brodifacoum poison in Environment Southland possum control areas has been frustrating.
The National Pest Control Agency recently reminded hunters not to take animal carcasses for human consumption from areas where brodifacoum poison had been used.
“Basically, it means we’re not allowed to shoot in these areas for three years.”
Fortunately, though, Fare Game is in no danger of running out of wild deer that are safe to harvest. Callum says demand for free-range venison is across the board.
Heading into summer, the more popular cuts are those that go well on the barbecue, such as strip loin and tenderloin. His personal “flavour of the week” right now is a neck cut, cooked long and slow to bring out the flavour.
In his time off this summer, Callum plans to enjoy some leisurely hunting trips with friends and family and to introduce his five-year-old son to pristine wilderness areas in the southern region.