As the name implies, game birds are birds that are hunted in the wild, as well as kept in captivity where they are raised, often with some difficulty. They include guinea fowl, partridge, pheasants, squabs, and quail. Ducks, geese and turkeys are not included in this group. Except for quail, they are seasonal breeders, so the product is not available, fresh, all year round. None are indigenous to Australia.
Game birds are labour-intensive and usually a family operation. The licensed slaughter facilities, which must reach stringent standards, may be a separate operation from the game farm, as most farms do not process their own birds. This is done in an independent, off-farm facility. There is often more than one game bird species grown on some game farms. The produce is relatively expensive and is found mainly in gourmet restaurants, boutique butchers and occasionally in retail stores. The retail price for a 1 kg pheasant and 1 kg guinea fowl as of July 2009 was AUS$26.70. Demand will be governed largely by economic conditions. The current economic downturn has had a depressing effect on some aspects of the game bird industry.
Game bird meat generally has a ‘gamey flavour’ although this is an all-embracing term and varies depending on species and their diet. Demand has increased over the past 10 years and the most recent value of the industry is in excess of $20 million/year for game birds in total. Over half of this is for Japanese quail. Bio-security on some game farms is minimal compared to the commercial poultry industry and visitors are sometimes welcome. Formulated feeds for game birds are often the same as those for other domestic species such as turkeys and are changed according to phase of production.
Pheasants and partridge are sometimes raised for shooting in Australia but it is not easy to find information on this practice or how widespread it is. Partridge, although grown in small numbers, have not been included here, as it is not possible to get accurate information on numbers or farms. One Victorian breeder raises 2000 partridges each year for shoots. Also, some large producers and processors of an other species (e.g. ducks) may also market quail, squabs, pheasants and guinea fowl under their own label but the product is often supplied from a game bird processor already packaged and frozen under the large producer’s own label.
Some of the information reported here is based on surveys carried out by the Rural Industries Research and Development Council and published in 2003, 2005 and 2009 although much of the data is well over three years old.
Biosecurity on all poultry farms is of the highest priority. Recently, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry with Animal Health and the Poultry Industry have produced the National Farm Biosecurity Manual-Poultry Production which covers all farmed avian species. Producers are expected to adhere to these guidelines.
Information provided by Dr. David Farrell
Guinea Fowl Production Guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) are native to the more arid areas of the west coast of sub Saharan Africa. Today, they are found in India, and after... read more
Pheasant Production It is believed that pheasants were introduced into Europe from China in about 1300 BC. They were brought to Britain in 1050 AD and transported to the United... read more
Japanese Quail Production Japanese quail Coturnix japonica are a subspecies of Coturnix coturnix. They were domesticated in China which is now the world’s largest producer of quail meat (150,000 tonnes per year). Far... read more
Squab Production Domesticated pigeons (Columbia livia domesticia) are raised for racing and ornamental purposes and for meat production mainly as young birds (squabs). The ancient Egyptians were one of the... read more
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