As Christmas shoppers make their final preparations for the big day local farmers and butchers are warning residents not to waste money on rogue meat.
Will Shropshire, who spends some of his time working on the family farm in Acton, where they process and sell birds to local butchers and restaurants, has asked customers to be wary and to buy from trusted traders.
He said. “What you find this time of year is people processing and selling at a knock-down price. I get fed up of seeing it each year.”
He said these birds will not have been through the proper veterinary, hygiene and food standards checks.
On his family farm they buy in properly processed birds.
“The game meat laws are quite complicated. If you hunt or shoot the birds yourself or are part of the organisation of the shoot you can process and sell the birds yourself. As soon as you start buying in game or selling to middle men you need a processing number. Without one you are trading illegally.”
Another South Suffolk business counting the cost of such trade is Lavenham Butchers, where co-owner Greg Strolenberg has to contend with poachers offering cheap meat on the market, mainly local deer.
The butchers hunt their own deer on local land but said not only are poachers offering cut-price meat, but they also cause damage to deer populations, the local landscape and offer potentially harmful produce.
“They don’t have any costs or overheads so they can sell it cheaper. People don’t realise the risks involved and the animal welfare issues.
“They often shoot at night by lamp so will be indiscriminate of age, sex or whether the animal is in or out of season. We often find young fallow without mums, left out to starve to death.
“They are not going to check if they are healthy animals and they might not have refrigeration so the product is probably not going to be very good. The people who buy it are as bad as the poachers.”
He said poaching was a ‘massive problem’ locally, which with a lack of police support, required customers to stop buying the illegal meat in order to stop the supply.
“People don’t realise the damage they are doing buying it and saving a bit of money and the backlash it has on the animals and on the land.”
He said farmers’ property was often left damaged as poachers drive across crops to hunt the deer.