The Forestry Commission (FC) estate in England, Scotland and Wales is managed according to the standards required by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Independent auditors, accredited by FSC, inspect a proportion of the FC estate every year to confirm the standards of management are consistent with the UK Woodland Assurance Standard and hence the FC estate can continue to be FSC certified. FC products, such as timber, Christmas trees, wooden signs and picnic furniture can all be marketed as FSC certified.
FSC not only certifies timber products, all forest products can, potentially, be certified. Venison is one such non-timber products that is FSC certified in the UK. Deer management is an integral part of the FC’s multi-purpose forest management. Typically, the same forests that yield venison also provide recreation facilities, long-term timber production, protection of biodiversity and a wide range of environmental and social benefits.
There are said to be more wild deer living in Britain today than at any time in the past. All species are increasing in both range and population. Management is essential for environmental, social and economic reasons, especially given that the large carnivores that once predated deer are long extinct in Britain.
The FC is the largest manager of deer in UK. The deer are managed in order to:
• Conserve habitats, plant assemblages and their associated biodiversity
• Protect trees, woodlands, forests, timber and agricultural crops
• Support Government landscape scale objectives
• Maintain sustainable deer populations
Population assessment is undertaken to determine the appropriate level of cull required to achieve sustainable objectives. Professional standards of ranger staff and quality deer handling facilities are a feature of FC deer management. FC wildlife rangers are acknowledged to be the leading exponents of best practice in wild deer management. The stalkers are fully trained in the best handling and hygiene procedures, which exceed current regulations. Also included is a comprehensive tagging scheme, which along with purpose built larders and vehicles ensure the highest standards are met.
The “Wild Venison Standard” is a comprehensive statement of best practice by the Forestry Commission governing the production of venison on the FC estate in a safe, hygienic and professional manner. The standard includes detailed reference to the training and proficiency of rangers, hygiene and safety requirements, audit procedures and carcass inspection and storage.
A joint marketing venture has been developed between Rick Bestwick Ltd and the Forestry Commission, to promote wild venison from their estate. Distinct dedicated packaging has been designed to enhance this, giving the customer greater confidence and added security of full traceability.
Rick Bestwick said “We believe this joint market venture will raise public awareness and promote Wild & Natural Venison and the work of the Forest Stewardship Council”.
There is a growing awareness of the FSC logo in relation to timber products. A recent poll by GfK NOP showed a significant increase in logo recognition amongst those who regularly visited DIY stores. We are now seeing a much greater range of FSC products hitting the shops, from tissue paper to children’s toys and from food packaging to magazines. As the logo becomes more widespread, awareness of FSC will inevitably improve and, as consumer demand increases, this will create a market pull that reaches back through the supply chain to the forest floor.
The development of FSC venison is a great example of a very different FSC product. The Forestry Commission estate is managed in accordance with the FSC standards and the venison is tracked through the Chain of Custody system, to the end retailer. The promotion of products such as FSC venison will, inevitably, increase awareness and recognition of the FSC logo.