Sainsbury’s game meat

There’s a slogan on Sainsbury’s website stating that its vision is to become the UK’s ‘most trusted retailer’. Some might say it’s got a long way to go.

In October 2020 we became aware that Sainsbury’s was stocking two products of interest: pheasant breasts and a mixed-game casserole (venison, pheasant & partridge).

Both products were being manufactured by Holme Farmed Venison, a company based in North Yorkshire which, according to the product packaging, ‘sources Pheasants and Partridges from Traditional UK Estates, renowned for the quality of their birds, and within the guidelines laid down by the British Game Alliance using ‘The Code of Good Shooting Practice’’.

Both products displayed the British Game Alliance (BGA) kite mark prominently on the packaging’s front sleeve but neither product included a warning to customers that the meat may contain toxic lead ammunition, a known poison that the Food Standards Agency advises is especially dangerous to young children and pregnant women.

The BGA claims to be ‘the official marketing board for the UK game industry’ and claims on its website, ‘Through our ‘British Game’ assurance scheme we can ensure the provenance of our game meets rigorous and ethical standards‘.

However, some of us aren’t convinced by the BGA’s claimed credentials, especially when we know that some of the BGA’s accredited members are currently being investigated by the police in relation to alleged wildlife crimes.

So given this lack of transparency and thus confidence in the BGA, rather than taking the BGA’s word about these products we’ve asked Holme Farmed Venison to provide further detail about the provenance of their gamebirds and Sainsbury’s has been asked, repeatedly, whether these products contain any toxic lead ammunition.

Holme Farmed Venison has not yet responded.

Sainsbury’s has responded, with a generic corporate response:

HFV products only select from meat that has no shot in it. Initially, visually inspected and then metal detected at the game processor and again visually inspected in the final pack”.  

In a shocking display of complacency about its customers’ health concerns, Sainsbury’s went on to tell one customer:

At present Sainsbury’s will not be providing any further update regarding your concerns, and we would encourage any further questions to be directed to Holme Farmed Venison, through their customer helpline‘.

Since Sainsbury’s seems so reluctant to safety- test this food product it’s selling to families, we thought we’d do it ourselves.

Over the last month we’ve bought some of those pheasant breasts and mixed-game casseroles from various Sainsbury’s stores and have prepared a series of samples using a rigorously-scientific process. These samples have just been shipped to a specialist laboratory where an experienced scientist will examine them to determine whether they contain any toxic lead ammunition and if so, in what quantities.

The results are expected later this spring.