Deer are not native to New Zealand. Deer were introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800's from Great Britain and released into the wild to provide sport for the European settlers. Eventually the rapidly multiplying wild deer numbers became a problem as their uncontroled browsing was damaging New Zealand's native forests. Starting in the 1930's the government enlisted professional hunters to cull the population.
During the 1960's entrepreneurs recognized the opportunity to ship to Europe where venison was traditionally a favored dish.
Hunting became so lucrative that the deer population dwindled to the point that deer farming to supply venison to the rapidly growing European market became economically viable. In 1970 the first deer farming license was issued. Today, there are more than 1 million deer on 2,500 farms throughout New Zealand.
Number-One World Exporter
New Zealand is the number one worldwide source for farm raised venison to the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, France, Australia, Sweden and Japan.
The U.S. began importing venison in 1975. In the past, all exported venison had to be sent frozen. New technolog makes it possible for more than half of all New Zealand venison to be shipped chill packed. In 2004 it was estimated that approximately 85% of all venison served in restaurants in the U.S. came from New Zealand.