Meet Jane Prentice of Scotland’s only field to fork venison farm and processing plant, Stagison, Downfield Farm.
Bob & Jane Prentice are both from a traditional farming family background and moved to Fife in 2002 when they bought Downfield Farm, just outside Cupar. The farm is mixed with a suckler cow and breeding sheep herd together with cereal crops and in 2012 they added farmed deer to the stock.
You are true food heroes, having launched Scotland’s first deer abattoir – what was the impetus behind this venture and what does it mean for the Scottish venison industry?
In 2012 before we purchased our first farmed deer we discovered that the nearest abattoir was in Barnsley, Yorkshire. As we were not prepared to transport our deer this distance we took the decision to convert a shed on the farm into an abattoir for farmed deer. The facility has been seen by the Scottish Venison industry as an opening into a growing market and farmers have seen this new step and decided to expand their herds and many new farmers are coming into the industry with this opportunity to supply Scottish Venison born, finished and slaughtered in Scotland.
Tell us about your farming background
Bob grew up on his family farm in West Lothian which had a small suckler cow herd. On leaving school Bob worked for a short time in the local abattoir at Bathgate before becoming a foreman at a local poultry farm. He then bought his own milk delivery business and helped out neighbouring farmers when they were busy. Jane also grew up on her family’s farm in West Lothian which was mixed with fattening cattle, cereals and breeding sheep. Jane helped every year at lambing time. After leaving school she went on to qualify as a chartered accountant.
Where to the deer that you process come from?
From farms and estates all over Scotland. We get calves from 6 months old that we then finish on the farm, grazing outside in the summer and then being fed inside in the winter on our own grass silage, to yearlings that are finished ready to process.
What has the reaction been from the industry so far, including chefs and retailers?
The industry has been very supportive; the venison retailers are enthusiastic about the opportunities to supply Scottish farmed venison. Chefs like the all year round availability and consistency of the venison as well as the tenderness of the meat.
What would you say to anyone who hasn’t tried venison before?
Try it, you’ll love it. Even our kids love eating it. It’s not strong flavoured like you might expect and the texture is very easy to digest. Venison is also a very healthy red meat, low in cholesterol and high in iron.
What should consumers look for when buying venison?
Check on the label if it is wild or imported as this is different to our farmed venison. All the cuts are as versatile as beef i.e. mince for bolognese or lasagne, steaks for the barbecue, diced for a casserole or stew and roasting joints.
For further information please visit: www.Stagison.com
Follow on twitter @stagison
Find out more about Scottish Venison more generally via www.scottish-venison.info