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News Navigator: Why is Japanese gov't promoting wild game meat?

A dish of roasted wild deer. (Photo courtest of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about wild game meat, as the popularity of dishes using such meat has been on the rise in Japan in recent years.

Question: We often hear the term "gibier" lately. What does that mean?

Answer: It's a French term meaning wild game meat, such as venison and brawn, or meat of wild deer and boar caught by hunting. Gibier is a cuisine culture originating in Europe and it is becoming increasingly popular in Japan partly because such meat is low in fat and rich in nutrients.

With the aim of further promoting the use of wild game meat, the Japanese government is set to designate 12 model districts to that end across the country in fiscal 2018, and is seeking to double the consumption volume of such meat by fiscal 2019.

Q: Why is the government intent on promoting the consumption of such meat?

A: It is because wild animals damage agricultural crops and orchard trees. As of 2015, approximately 4 million wild deer and boar were believed to have been roaming around the country. The number of wild deer in Japan spiked about tenfold and that of boar some threefold over the past quarter century. The amount of damage from such animals has hovered at around 20 billion yen over the past decade, raising the need to introduce swift countermeasures.

Q: What's the difference between wild game meat and livestock meat, such as beef and pork?

A: Wild game meat may contain parasites and viruses. As part of efforts to ensure the safety of such meat, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare introduced a set of rules in 2014 for hunting, transportation and distribution of wild game meat. An increasing number of local governments are also instituting their own safety inspection measures. However, the country is still a long way from establishing sufficient systems for processing and selling wild game meat; there is still a ways to go before a wide range of people acquire the skills to slaughter such meat. Therefore, among wild birds and animals that are hunted, only 10 percent or so end up being served on the table.

Q: What sort of efforts would help promote higher recognition and consumption of wild game meat?

A: One of the keys to making wild game meat more popular is changing consumer awareness about such meat. While wild game meat is becoming popular domestically, some people shy away from it thinking, "It's dangerous," or "I'm not much for eating it." The wider the use of wild game meat becomes, the less damage the agricultural sector suffers. Furthermore, the availability of wild game meat could potentially lead to regional revitalization.

While wild birds and animals that ruin farm crops are regarded as nuisances, when it comes to wild game meat, the lives of those animals are involved. Therefore, we should appreciate their lives in dealing with their meat. (Answers by Koki Matsumoto, Kofu Bureau)

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