Inspection and Grading of Meats and Poultry

Game Processing, Inspection, and Grading

The domestic market for game meats in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada is still developing. Consumers seeking natural meats such as elk and deer (the most sought after commercially available game meats in the country) usually have to access them through farm operations that promote and harvest their own animals, or through meat shops that specialize in retailing game.

Other specialty species that are sold commercially are goat (particularly for the ethnic market) and ratites, such as ostrich and emu, which have tried to secure a portion of the market but have been slow to catch on. Muskox is harvested in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and game birds, such as pheasant, squab, Guinea fowl, and quail, are commercially available through specialty retailers and wholesalers. Rabbit and hare are also available, with the majority of commercial production in Quebec and Ontario.

All game meats to be sold at the retail level and in restaurants must be either federally or provincially inspected. Grading of game meats is not available in Canada at this time.

Venison

The domestication of deer species for meat and hunting has been taking place for an estimated 2,000 years. The New Zealand venison industry is currently the largest in the world, but deer farming for meat production has grown in Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, the United States, South Africa, and Germany over the last few decades. Currently there is no grading system in place for fallow deer and elk meats in Canada.

Meats from the deer species (fallow, mule, whitetail, and red deer) as well as elk, moose, caribou (reindeer), and sometimes antelope are all considered venison.

Table 23 provides a short list of venison muscle meats and processed products available, mainly from elk and deer.

Table 23 Venison products available for sale
Venison Muscle Meats for Wholesale and Retail Venison Processed Products
Leg cuts (from the hip), Denver style Sausage patties (pre-prepared)
Back loins (strip loins) Ground meat burgers (pre-prepared)
Tenderloins (whole) Snack sticks
Racks (10 rib) Jerky
Sirloin steaks Hard or dry cured sausage
Shoulder roasts (boneless) Fresh sausage
Ground meats (mince) Cooked and smoked sausage

Recently the number of restaurants serving venison and the number of stores selling the processed products have increased. There are approximately 14 licensed farm operations in B.C. and more in Alberta that cater to both domestic and export markets.

Fallow deer are one of the smaller deer species and are the main species used for commercial farming. These deer were originally imported live as breeding stock from New Zealand. They adjust well to farm life, are easy to handle, are a relatively gentle species, and can be grown to a very consistent size that suits marketing purposes. Prior to 1990, the bulk of venison sold in British Columbia was imported from New Zealand. Today, approximately 80% of the B.C. venison market is being served by B.C. fallow deer producers.

Game-farmed venison has been proven to have a lower fat and cholesterol content than most red meats. The demand for venison has increased greatly in the last few years and continues to grow rapidly. Ranched elk is a culinary treat and is a naturally tender and healthy meat with a mild, distinctive flavour, although some people refer to wild elk meat as the queen of game meats. It can be included in many cooking styles. Elk is very low in cholesterol, and although low in calories it provides the same amount of protein as most other livestock. Studies at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Station in Lacombe, Alberta, have shown that elk is generally more tender than beef.

Currently there are two federally inspected plants in Alberta that accept elk and deer for processing.

Wild deer species in B.C., Alberta, and other parts of Canada are not used for farm and meat production. However, some of Canada’s deer species are susceptible to chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system. It is known as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Other TSEs include scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. In Canada, CWD is a serious concern for deer and elk farmers and is a reportable disease under the Health of Animals Act. All cases must be reported to the CFIA.

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Game Processing, Inspection, and Grading by The BC Cook Articulation Committee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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