Adam Finlayson has a job of great responsibility – bringing a taste of the wild East Coast bush of the Raukumara ranges to the plates of restaurants all of over the country. Adam and the team at Raukumara Red have turned a passion and a hobby into a worthwhile business supplying wild venison.
After a few minutes speaking with Adam, it’s clear to see Raukumara Red is about so much more than selling meat. The isolation of the Raukumara Ranges means that it requires an entire skilled team to get their quota, a helicopter pilot, a shooter and a truck driver just to get the deer from the bush to the processors. And the entire team are aware of the importance of the bushes ecosystem.
In order for the ecosystem to stay balanced, the bush can only support a very delicate number of deer. If the number of deer gets too high, then the ranges cannot support the volume of foliage required to feed all of the deer as well as sustain the forest floor and undergrowth layers of the ecosystem.
That’s where Raukumara Red comes in. Maintaining the deer population in the Raukumara is a ‘win, win’ as fewer deer numbers means there is more foliage for the remaining deer. It also means the deer are in better physical condition at time of culling and the native bush is also better preserved with less pressure from the grazing animals.
The improved body condition of the deer mean better returns for the meat sold. In return Raukumara Red are able to support a very good cause. The Whinray Eco Trust is a key part of restoring the Kiwi population. Raukumara Red has made a number of donations to the trust and has been closely involved with the release of Kiwi back into our native bush.
A major part of the success of Raukumara Red has been the re-marketing and sale of venison. Adam highlights the shift in mindset required for venison to end up on more menus. “For lots of people, the only experience they’ve had with venison is a taste of a big tough stag that has been shot during the roar. Which would have a very gamey taste that is not that appealing to some”.
As a result it’s been a variety of meat that hasn’t been readily available in stores. It has taken a lot of work with processors to develop a more mild taste and a consistency in the tenderness of the meat. It’s been a lot of hard slog and learning about what works best says Adam. “We don’t even shoot during the roar. We leave that to the recreational hunters. We take the time to do some recreational hunting ourselves and take our kids out hunting.”
People have taken notice of the opportunity to have wild venison in the freezer without becoming mates with the local hunter. My Food Bag, Canterbury Biltong and a list of other retailers and restaurants are now stocking the Raukumara Red cuts.
Going forward Adam and the team are working hard to try find the best way to use the trim and off cuts of their meat including making different patties and sausages. There are hints of expansion to a more nationally-focused business in the next 18 months, but a lot of logistics are yet to be worked out before that becomes a reality.