Sales for meat such as venison, pheasant and grouse soared 46 per cent between 2004 and 2006, to reach £57 million last year, according to Mintel research.
Although still a premium, niche market, these meats are clearly a cut above the rest, with everyday red meat and poultry markets growing by no more than 5 per cent over the same two year period.
Senior market analyst at Mintel, David Bird says, "The market for game is growing strongly as we increasingly look for exciting, alternative flavours that fit with our renewed interest in good quality food.
“But game also has a surprising fan in health conscious Brits. These meats are low in fat and cholesterol, but are still full of flavour and this healthy image is definitely helping to boost sales, especially amongst women."
Looking to the future, the popularity of game shows no sign of abating, with sales set to increase by a further 47 per cent to hit £84 million by 2011.
With this growing interest in game, coupled with the rise of farmers' markets and locally produced food - bringing us closer to the natural source of our food - it is not too hard to imagine a possible revival of activities such as fishing and shooting.
Indeed, an unexpected hero has emerged in the form of W M W Fowler, with his Countryman's Cookbook fast becoming a best-seller.
Although it was a flop back when it was first published more than 40 years ago, his descriptions of not only how to cook game but also how to shoot, skin, pluck and gut it, have clearly struck a chord with today's modern cooks.
Flying off the shelves
Taking almost half (47 per cent) of game sales, it is venison that has really captured the nation's imagination.
The market for venison has come on leaps and bounds since the days when it was only available as a roasting joint. Today, you can enjoy venison burgers, sausages and steaks, all without the fat of regular pork or beef varieties.
Pheasant, partridge and grouse make up almost a third (31 per cent) of game sales, while 'other game', such as hare and wild boar, complete the sector, with 22 per cent of sales.
Bird explains, "Today's growing concern about the environment and the negative impact of mass produced food is changing the types of food we buy, with many of us opting for food that is organic, locally sourced or bought from a farmers' market.
“As game comes from free ranging animals and is wild and natural, this market is clearly perfectly placed to take full advantage of this trend," explains.
It's 'game on' for game
Game is now moving away from being a treat on the odd special occasion, to a meal that is enjoyed on a much more regular basis. Indeed, four in ten (41 per cent) Brits now eat game, with a further 12 per cent ready to give it a go.
Bird concludes, "Game is now more readily available than ever before, with improved standards of handling and hygiene having encouraged supermarkets to stock game.
“Distribution has also improved considerably over the last couple of years and the popularity of these meats amongst top chefs around the country has meant that many more people are getting to taste the likes of venison, partridge and grouse. People are clearly becoming more adventurous and are prepared to give these meats a go.”
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