Waitrose – are you having problems sourcing lead-free game meat?

Wild Justice has been scouring the game meat shelves of supermarkets for shot birds to get analysed for lead content.

Last spring, we published analyses of game meat collected from Sainsbury‘s and Waitrose and showed that both stores were selling game meat with high lead levels – the lead comes from fragments of lead shot with which the birds were killed and which spread through the carcasse of the bird.

Rightly, Wild Justice supporters were shocked that supermarkets were selling meat with high levels of a poison in them – and levels of lead are high enough for the Food Standards Agency to recommend that young children, pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should avoid eating lead shot game meat.

We said that we’d be testing meat samples again this winter. We already have Sainsbury’s game meat collected and being analysed for their lead levels – watch this space for the results in the next few weeks. We are also collecting samples from other high profile vendors.

Waitrose is the only supermarket, in our view, to have taken a more responsible approach. Waitrose have said that they are phasing out all game meat shot with lead and will only sell game meat shot with non-toxic ammunition. We will monitor their progress with this promise – and we wish them well.

However, we wonder whether Waitrose is finding it tough to live up to its promise. Many Waitrose stores have little game meat in them. We have visited over a dozen supermarkets where the stores have no whole Pheasants for sale. Online, Waitrose claim to be selling Pheasants but we know of several customers who have ordered Pheasants from Waitrose, been told that they would be ready for collection from stores and then, at the last moment, have been told that they are unavailable. This is a phenomenon which has occurred in several parts of the UK and seems the norm.

Go into a store, like the one pictured above, and many of the game meat options are ‘temporarily unavailable’ – even though the labels claiming this don’t look very temporary. In chats with Waitrose staff in stores, Wild Justice supporters have been told that there are big problems in supply this year.

We will be asking Waitrose what their problems are and when they think that they will be able to supply lead-free game meat as promised. You could ask your local supermarket what is their policy on selling game meat shot with lead ammunition – we’d like to know what a range of supermarkets are saying. And remember, we are collecting more samples for analysis from several supermarkets.

We wish Waitrose well with their responsible move to lead-free game meat, and look forward to being able to report that their gamemeat is low-lead or, hopefully, lead-free in due course. We wonder whether they are being let down by the shooting industry? At the moment it seems that Waitrose is struggling to fill its shelves with gamemeat – that’s one way to seel less lead to the public.