As a Kiwi I grew up eating venison, small medallions cooked on the sizzling hotplate, rich and lean. Although it’s one of the healthiest red meats, I’ve never really seen it on menus here in Australia.
After ‘meating’ fellow Kiwi Jonas Widjaja, venison is on my radar again. In fact I’ll be getting my hands on some at my local organic farmers market tomorrow. Can’t wait to taste it again, after all these years.
I first met Jonas at a foodie event. He was showcasing his venison and offered me a plate of tasty chef-prepped canapes. I peppered Jonas with questions and he shared the story of his business with me…. Fair Game Wild Venison.
Jonas discovered wild deer are a pest animal when he moved to the north coast of NSW. Deer were introduced into Australia from Europe in the 1800s as game animals. Now their numbers have grown and they’re damaging grasslands, forests, and grazing on crops and pasture meant for farm stock. To keep the deer population in check farmers often employ hunters to cull them in large numbers.
As a hunter Jonas was used to bringing home meat for his family and friends, but he soon found he had more venison than he could eat. When he tried to give some to a local soup kitchen, he was told they couldn’t accept the venison because it hadn’t come through a butcher.
Uncomfortable with the amount of deer meat going to waste, Jonas decided there must be a better way. This vision started him on a journey of many twists and turns as he delved into the world of farmers, hunters, food safety, meat processing and packaging, sales and marketing.
After loads of research, conversations, and trial and error, Jonas has managed to connect all the dots and is now putting wild venison on plates in high end restaurants and home kitchens. Farmers provide access to the deer on their lands, commercial field harvesters (who are certified) hunt the venison, which is delivered to cold storage and butchered, then prepped for delivery and sale.
Jonas’s unique business model is gaining attention, and his commitment to sustainable food production is being recognised. His meat is sought after by top chefs who, he says, are great advocates for sustainable, local food – doing great justice to the labour-intensive process.
Last month Jonas was a state winner in the Harvey Norman Delicious Produce Awards, which recognises the top food producers in New South Wales.
Jonas’ ethically harvested wild venison supports farmers, relieves environmental stress and is a premium meat product. His nose-to-tail philosophy means nothing is wasted, with offcuts being used to make venison salami. He also sells deer skins and antlers.
Jonas is delivering venison in SE Queensland, Northern Rivers, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. His venison is also available at markets in Carseldine and Gold Coast Miami.
Or you can order online at fairgame.com.au
LISTEN TO MY PODCAST to hear more of Jonas’s venison story.
Hi, I’m Shannon, a travel and food blogger living on the Gold Coast in Australia. My hobbies are roadtrips, gin and food tours. Sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Instagram @_eatwelltraveloften_ for more of the good stuff.