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Fresh-dressed pheasants make tasty treat

PUBLISHED: 14:11 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 14:49 07 July 2010

A brace of partridges from his Norfolk farm are perfect for a couple looking for a distinctive dish with real taste, said arable and pedigree sheep farmer John Garner.

A brace of partridges from his Norfolk farm are perfect for a couple looking for a distinctive dish with real taste, said arable and pedigree sheep farmer John Garner.

He started processing game shot on the farm, which was once part of the Holkham estate, to add value and meet consumer demand for plucked and dressed birds. When prices went down from £2.50 to 60p or 70p for pheasants and from £1.50 to as little as 40p for a partridge, he decided to market his game directly to the consumer.

All the partridges and pheasants, which are shot at Godwick Hall Farm, near Tittleshall, are processed and then sold at two farmers' markets between October and January. He invested in a new Italian-made plucking machine seven years ago, which can process a partridge in less than a minute or pluck a pheasant in about two and half minutes - much faster than his original small machine.

He and his wife, Sarah, enjoy meeting customers and selling their game. “Consumers don't want to be buying game in the feather for obvious reasons.

“The butchering trade have got difficulties with this and the individual consumer is more affluent than they used to and can afford to buy game ready-plucked.

“You're talking about a partridge at £1.75 and a pheasant at £2.50. You can buy a brace of partridges and you've got lovely meal for two people and one pheasant will do two people. It is cheap and people are beginning to realise that it is jolly good value.”

The family, which bought the farm from the Holkham estate, has been at Godwick since 1928 when his father took a tenancy at “five bob (25p) an acre to get rid of the docks and thistles”.

Now, Mr Garner has several small shoots, typically about 100 birds, which are then processed for the farmers' markets. “We've usually sold out by 11am, so once we've sold the 60 or 70 birds, that's it. We shoot on the Thursday to sell on the Saturday because we process the birds on a Friday,” he added.

“It has been reared and shot virtually on the doorstep. And anything which has been badly shot goes straight in the bin. That's most important. And usually, I have not had to chuck anything because we've had a really good team of guns here,” he added

“There's more interest in game because it is on the doorstep.”

Sometimes consumers are reluctant to try game. “Some think it is difficult to cook. When somebody asks Sarah: 'How do I cook it? She gives them recipe ideas and the BASC (British Association for Shooting and Conservation) leaflets.”

He also sells a few geese and traditionally reared turkeys and will also be selling venison, shot on the farm.

“We're talking to people all the time. Some people will say, 'I'll try one'. That's the fascinating bit and when they come back a few weeks later, 'that was good - I'll have two more.' Then you've cracked it, haven't you?”

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