Introducing Wild British Food

Image above: Bass from Wild British Food

Consumers want to buy responsibly and sustainably

The provenance of our food is becoming more important to people. Consumers are increasingly trying to buy responsibly and sustainably as we become more aware of supply chains, air miles and the globalisation of food production.

That consumers are becoming more careful about what they buy was demonstrated in a recent survey reported in New Food magazine which showed 84% of respondents checked where their food has come from either ‘all’, ‘most’ or ‘some’ of the time.

Two-thirds (66%) were either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ concerned about where their food had come from, while 68% said that origin of food was either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important in influencing purchasing decisions.

Opening in Chiswick soon is Wild British Food, based in Grove Park, who offer to cut out the middle man and put consumers directly in touch with the producers of meat and fish caught in the UK in the wild.

“There are so many intermediaries between food producers and consumers there is a lot of waste” says Nick Jefferson, who has set up Wild British Food with co-Founder Ella Cooper.

Food is produced on spec, hoping to find a market. Everyone in the chain has bills to pay and takes their cut. The food that ends up with the consumer is more expensive than it need be, without the original producers being able to make a good living from it, he argues.

Images above: Wild venison fillet; Creel caught langoustines

Fish caught by rod and line

Nick and Ella have spent months touring the UK talking to producers of wild British food – ie. fishermen and hunters – talking to them about a different business model in which they set the prices and get to keep more of the income generated by selling online direct to the customer thorough an online market place.

“Fishermen get ripped off at the moment” says Nick. This way there is a virtual market which consumers can access on a Monday, to see what’s available and place their orders on Wednesday when the market is ‘open’ between 7am and 7pm for nationwide delivery by Friday the same week.

Although initially the producers were sceptical, they have signed up eight fish producers so far, all owners of small day boats in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset who fish in a sustainable way “some of them [six out of the eight] with a rod and line.”

The resulting product is not cheap. Their methods are more labour intensive, Wild British Food take their cut and the whole point is that producers earn more, but it is competitive says Nick for quality fresh food produced in a sustainable way.

Images above: Squat Lobster; Venison fillet

Deer habitats over-populated

Besides fish they also offer venison, game birds, rabbit and seaweed.

“We have more deer now than there has been at any time since William the Conqueror” says Nick, in case anyone should think the species under threat.

House and Garden magazine ran a piece last year with the headline ‘Why we should all be eating venison.’

‘The pandemic has had devastating effects across swathes of the population and changed consumer habits in nearly every sector. However, one conversation topic that perhaps no one saw coming was how it has changed the wild deer population of Britain.

‘Deer are a key part of the British ecosystem and play an important role in regulating the biodiversity of the woodlands in which they roam, but too many deer can have a negative effect. With restaurants shut, the venison industry has found that 80% of their demand for the lean, antioxidant-packed red meat has disappeared and wild deer numbers are soaring as a result.’

When deer numbers rise too high, they damage the environment around them, causing other wildlife to leave the woodlands in search of food elsewhere.

The herds are ‘managed’, ie. animals are killed by licensed hunters and tested for safety under EU regulations (at the moment at least) at the point of butchery. The rabbit, duck, woodcock and wood pigeon they buy from game dealers is also subject to stringent checks, says Nick.

“We live on an island teeming with wild life and yet we are importing prawns from Madagascar.

“It’s barking that we are importing prawns from Southeast Asia and cod from Iceland. Collectively we have to get a grip on this.”

Nick describes himself as a “food enthusiast”. He has been vegan for periods, which is not quite such a contradiction as it might seem. His concern is for the quality of food, how it is produced and killed, but this is something he feels passionately about.

Wild British Food launches in November 2022, trading as Wylde Market. Sign up for updates on the opening at wildbritishfood.com

Image above: Bass prepared the Japanese “ike jime” method

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