Not such a Glorious Twelfth as grouse in short supply

12 August 2015 by
Not such a Glorious Twelfth as grouse in short supply

While today hails the start of the red grouse season, produce is expected to be in short supply and prices unusually high due to the ramifications of bad weather earlier in the year.

As a result, suppliers are warning that chefs who have traditionally had grouse on their evening menus on the ‘Glorious Twelfth' may be left disappointed.

According to Lord Newborough, owner of Rhug Estate in Denbighshire: "Grouse is very patchy this year because of the weather in the spring when the broods were hatched. It was wet and cold and many of the young grouse were lost at that time, which means there will be fewer grouse available this season than in previous years.

"Some parts of the country were less affected but generally it's expected that numbers will be notably down. As a result, grouse will be more expensive than in previous years and at Rhug Estate, we have had to increase our prices (for a whole grouse) from £4.75 in 2014 to £7.06 in 2015, to account for the deficiency.

He went on to say: "Grouse are very popular and demand from restaurants will stay strong but customers will have to pay higher prices for these sought-after game birds. Rhug will be able to supply restaurants on a first come, first served basis."

Ivan Shenkman, chairman of purchasing consortium PSL, added that many estates had cancelled shoots, but said it shouldn't affect price.

"An awful lot of moors have cancelled," he said. "If those that do survive are shot you'll be shooting the stock and there will be nothing to lay eggs for the following year.

"This is the first time since medicated grit was introduced that there has been a problem. Disease used to be a concern but it's not any longer.

"It shouldn't have an impact on price as the estates aren't being paid a lot more money for their birds. The price should not be going up."

According to a story in The Telegraph last week, which spoke to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, an estimated 700,000 red grouse were shot last year, at a value of around £61m, with the retail value per bird varying between £6.50 and £15. The high price that estate owners can charge guests for shooting days and the network of gamekeepers and other specialist workers who support the sport add value to Britain's rural economy.

The Times reported yesterday that the Peak District has been particularly badly affected. The Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners, said: "Hardly a shot will be fired on some moors that normally offer 25 days of shooting over the season, with a party of nine typically paying £18,000 per day."

The Parkers Arms in Newton in Bowland, Lancashire, told The Caterer it was expecting grouse prices to rise due to the shortage. "Prices will rise and, for the first time in years, we may not have it on today's menu," said chef Stosie Madie.

"We are waiting for a call from our grouse suppliers. They usually do 16 shoots in the season and this year they will only do four."

Mark Sargeant, chef-patron of Rocksalt restaurant in Folkestone, Kent and whose latest restaurant, Morden & Lea, has just opened in London's Soho, commented on Twitter: "Bad weather including hail in May in the north east of England may have injured many young birds. The Scottish Moors are even worse! Not many grouse!"

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