Ángel Marqués Avila. Journalist
The end of summer and beginning of fall bring with them an extraordinary show from nature: bellowing. For weeks, male deer, in heat, howl to attract females and boast new antlers, which develop between spring and summer. This ritual of pairing up is a basic part of survival of the species and is also a tourist draw that offers many economic advantages to lots of rural areas.
A natural resource and an economic driver
In fact, hunting, which is vital for the existence of wild meat, has an economic impact of 6.475 billion euros in Spain, accounting for 0.3% of GDP and equivalent to 13% of the GDP generated by the agricultural sector, according to a report from Fundación Artemisan.
Hunting raises public funds to the tune of 614 million euros, of which 33% comes from fees and taxes paid directly by hunters, masters of hounds and hunting area managers, which amount to 201.4 million euros. Every euro spent on game generates a 1.80 euro contribution to domestic GDP.
Hunting is essential for the production of wild game, a subsector which led to 20,922,143 catches worth 89,931,973 euros, according to the most recent official data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Moreover, spending by those involved in the hunting segment generated returns of over 412 million euros for the Spanish Treasury for corporate tax, income tax and value added tax.
For the Chairman of the Interprofessional Game Meat Association (ASICCAZA), Florencio Rodríguez, in Spain the main message for consumers is that game is "a unique meat, as it comes from wild animals, because it's 100% natural, and it's something everyone can eat."
Hunting is one of the economic activities that has increased its revenue the most in Spain in recent years. The sector is estimated to have grown by 40% in the last four years, and now it is one of the leading drivers of Spain's rural economy.
In Spain, around 400,000 pieces of big game are caught, mainly boar, deer, roe deer and fallow deer, of which around 300,000 are sold and the rest is consumed. As for small game, almost everything that's hunted, around 20 million pieces, is eaten and just half a million pieces are sold, most of which is partridge, rabbit and hare, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Hunting in Spain led to 5.470 billion euros in annual spending, and raised 6.475 billion euros for GDP, i.e. it accounted for 0.3% of Spain's GDP. Spain's hunting industry involves a large socio-economic sector from throughout the country and thousands of people depend on it. According to data from the National Hunting Office (ONC), it creates around 54,000 jobs annually and involves 5 million people, either directly or indirectly, from a range of sectors including distribution, food and catering. Additionally, tourism related to hunting raises large amounts of money each year all over Spain. According to the ONC, the hunts that generate the most money in Spain, among Spanish and foreign hunters, are partridges, which account for 306 million euros per year, followed by other types of small game. Large game hunts that raise the most money are for deer (170 million euros).
What is wild game?
For centuries, nature has maintained one of the greatest gastronomic gems of all times: game.
The traditional classification of these types of meat distinguishes between furred game and, depending on the size, big game (boar, roe and fallow deer) or small game (hare, rabbit), and feathered game (partridge, pigeon, quail, Eurasian woodcock and duck).
In Spain, the bulk of production comes from the following species. Big game: deer, boar, roe and fallow deer, and mouflon. Small game: rabbit, partridge, hare and duck. The main difference between wild game and other species for slaughter are their organoleptic qualities and the fact that their meat is firmer. The red color is darker and they also have a unique flavor. The nutritional composition of wild game varies considerably, depending on the species and the food it eats. Broadly speaking, it has less fat and, therefore, contains slightly more protein with high biological value. It also has specific sensorial characteristics that make it unique, such as an intense flavor and attractive red color, as each piece reveals its unique qualities. They have a vitamin B content similar to that of animals for slaughter. They are rich in iron, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium, and are a popular food among people with anemia.
An activity tied to the land
Wild meat production has ties to the land, where huntable species are raised, managed and hunted and are then sold. These areas are primarily located in the regions of Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha and Andalusia, although northern Spain is becoming a notable producer of boar, with the result that there are opportunities for growth by companies in the north.
As a result, those three regions have developed an extensive industrial fabric in connection with wild meat, and it's where most of the cutting rooms, responsible for collecting, processing and distributing this product, are located. In Spain there are less than 50 companies dedicated to wild meat sales. The bulk of cutting rooms in Spain are equipped with the latest technology. They are very professional companies which ensure that products are high-quality and, together with the extensive hygiene and sanitary monitoring, guarantee that the game sold is suitable.
María Navarro González-Valerio, Deputy Director General of Promoción Alimentaria says that, despite the fact that the product has been devalued considerably in recent years, this natural resource is an important cultural, social and economic activity which sustains the rural economy in many Spanish villages. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food links wild game production to rural development and environmental conservation policies. As a result, the government has supported the creation of a National Hunting Strategy to help develop an indicative framework and coordinate all players to organize management of the hunting industry.
One of the places where wild game creates the most wealth is in rural areas, where 80% of Spain is suitable for hunting. In fact, this will be a key issue for the economic recovery and development of those areas in the coming years. "Hunting is essential for the development, sustainability and potential growth of rural environments in Spain," says Luis Pérez Ullivarri, Executive Director of Myhuntbook.
The Interprofessional Game Meat Association (ASICCAZA) is the leading organization of its kind. As an NGO, it aims to represent and defend the common interests of producers and companies in the wild meat industry. The organization includes entities involved in the areas of environmental preservation and gastronomy, among others, so that everyone in the sector works together to provide solutions. ASICCAZA is working to regularize the sector and make it into a viable market by enhancing wild game and promoting consumption. This will allow for game to be sold at real prices, combating the slide seen in recent years. The hunting industry is a source of revenue that sustains rural economies in a large number of villages throughout Spain, providing many jobs and several million euros per year. In view of this, we must ensure that it is maintained and work to raise the profile of wild game. The organization is tasked with improving the quality of products from processes involved in the agri-food chain, among other things. To that end, it has been certified by Calidez, the leading quality seal for wild game in Spain, since 2009.