Ian Booth is a man on a mission to showcase the field to fork journey for Scottish game.
The emergency services worker, who formerly worked as a police dog handler, has been running Balmoral Game for the past 17 months.
A keen huntsman, Mr Booth decided to turn his hobby for shooting and killing game – such as deer, pheasant and partridge – into a business.
He now runs a small herd of farmed red deer and, in addition to meat sourced from shooting deer on local farms and estates, sells a range of venison products through farm shops and country fairs across the region.
“My background is completely different to farming,” said Mr Booth.
“I have worked in emergency services for 20 years and was in the military for six years.”
He said he always eats everything he shoots, and he wanted to showcase the quality game meat produce available in Scotland to others.
His business, whose name is inspired by his time working at the Queen’s Balmoral Estates as a police officer with his dog, is based at the Marshall’s Farm Shop and Kitchen located beside the A96 at Kintore, near Inverurie.
“We started selling in May 2020 just after the big lockdown,” said Mr Booth.
“It’s mostly venison, but we are also looking at having pheasant, partridge and rabbit.”
He keeps a small herd of red deer on a 5.5 acre field rented from the Marshalls – located beside their farm shop – and this is being extended to 10 acres.
“I started with a herd of 13 and now we are up to 46,” said Mr Booth, who did training through the British Deer Society before embarking on his deer farming venture.
All meat is butchered and packaged into a range of products – including pies, sausages, burgers, meatballs and haunches – at H M Sheridan butchers in Ballater.
“For me it’s all about partnership working and provenance,” said Mr Booth.
He plans to launch an online sales platform in time for Christmas, which he promises will be in plentiful supply.
“Without a doubt, there’s no shortage of supply of venison and there’s a massive interest in the meat for the Christmas table because people are realising the health benefits of venison,” said Mr Booth.
“It’s one of the leanest meats, high in protein, low in cholesterol, ad high in Vitamin B, zinc and iron.”
In the long-term, Mr Booth also hopes to venture into agricultural and food tourism and to make running Balmoral Game his full-time job – at the moment he runs it alongside working as an emergency control room operator at emergency response company Restrata.
“We are planning on opening up a farm education attraction here at Marshalls where families can see lots of different animals,” said Mr Booth.
“Between the two of us we are sourcing other animals. What I’d like to do is not have people pay an entrance, but pay to feed the animals instead.”
He added: “It’s all about getting people to appreciate what’s in the countryside, where their food comes from and the hard work that farmers put into getting in on their table.”
And to dip his toes in tourism, Mr Booth, alongside Marshall’s Farm Shop, is taking part in the Provenance Festival.
The food and drink festival, run by economic development partnership Opportunity North East, runs until Sunday.
Balmoral Game is running two events on Saturday and Sunday, where people can get a ‘meet and greet’ with the deer followed by the chance to build their own venison burger at Marshall’s Farm Shop.
More information about Provenance Festival and the Balmoral Game events is online at visitabdn.com/cp/provenance-festival/