Gift of Grouse chef claims red grouse are “organic”

The Scottish grouse shooting industry’s propaganda machine, The Gift of Grouse, is definitely a gift that just keeps giving. It stumbles from one gaffe to the next with extraordinary frequency.

This week, the Gift of Grouse has joined forces with “Scotland’s leading chefs” to promote the use of red grouse in more restaurants and hotels. This latest campaign has been timed to coincide with this weekend’s Scottish Game Fair, and a press statement has appeared in various papers across the country. Said press statement also appears on the Gift of Grouse website (here).

We were fascinated to read a quote in this press statement from ‘top chef’ Andrew Fairlie of the Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie Restaurant at Gleneagles. Mr Fairlie says “Customers like it [red grouse] because it’s organic, sustainable and it’s provenance is exact“:

Let’s leave his claim of red grouse being “sustainable” (they’re not) and having “exact provenance” (they don’t) to one side and concentrate on his claim that red grouse are “organic”.

Organic? Really? We thought red grouse could contain:

  • Excessive quantities of toxic poisonous lead (sometimes over 100 times the lead levels that would be legal for other meat – see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Flubendazole (see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the veterinary drug Levamisole hydrochloride (also used in chemotherapy treatment for humans with colon cancer – see here)
  • Unknown quantities of the pesticide Permethrin (used topically to treat scabies and pubic lice; probably not that great to ingest) – see here
  • Red grouse may also be diseased with Cryptosporidiosis (see here).

It’s hard to see how a product that could contain so much hazardous toxicity could ever be certified as being organic. But, taking Mr Fairlie at his word, we thought we’d do a bit of checking:

We looked at DEFRA’s guidance on organic farming, which says:

  • You must register with an organic control body if you’re going to produce, prepare, store, import or sell organic products;
  • You’re breaking the law if you call a food product ‘organic’ if it hasn’t been inspected and certified by one of the UK’s nine organic control bodies.

Then we looked at the Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA) website to find out which businesses are registered and certified as organic producers or processors. The SOPA website pointed us to the IFOAM (Organics International) registered verification facility (here), which allows the public to search a database for registered / certified organic producers in many different countries, including Scotland.

We noticed that Mr Fairlie said his grouse supplier is a company called Ochil Foods in Perthshire. We checked Ochil Foods’ status as an organic producer/processor on the IFOAM database but it wasn’t listed. Hmm.

So then we looked at the Ochil Foods website to see if they mentioned from which estates they sourced their red grouse. No estate names are listed (so much for Andrew Fairlie’s claim of “exact provenance” then) but it does say: “Our grouse come from Deeside, Angus and East Lothian“.

So we thought we’d search the IFOAM database for details of all registered / certified organic producers in East Lothian, Angus and Aberdeenshire to see how many red grouse producers are listed. To do this we searched the IFOAM database by postcode, and chose postcodes that we knew corresponded with areas that includes land managed as a grouse moor.

We found a total of 22 businesses in these areas that were either registered and/or certified as organic producers or processors (East Lothian: 4; Angus: 9; Aberdeenshire: 9). The IFOAM database also allows you to look at the actual details of each certification, which shows the produce each business is certified to sell as organic. Guess what? Of the 22 registered organic businesses we found, NOT A SINGLE ONE WAS LISTED AS PRODUCING RED GROUSE.

You can download our search results here:

Registered organic businesses EastLothian_Angus_Aberdeenshire

So where does that leave us? It leaves us in a position of being unable to verify the organic status of red grouse, which leads to questions about the integrity of Mr Fairlie’s claim, and the integrity of the Gift of Grouse for promoting this claim. If a product is described as being “organic”, the public needs to have confidence that that’s what it is. And let’s just remind ourselves, again, that according to DEFRA, it is an offence to call a product “organic” if it hasn’t been inspected and certified by one of the nine UK control bodies.

Now it may be that the source estate of Mr Fairlie’s red grouse IS registered / certified as being organic, but for some reason it’s not been included on the IFOAM database. Mistakes can happen. So before we suggest submitting a formal complaint to the authorities, we should allow Mr Fairlie, Ochil Foods and the Gift of Grouse an opportunity to either verify this claim or publish a statement to clarify that red grouse are NOT organic.

Here are the questions to ask:

  • Please provide the name and address of the estate(s) from where the red grouse sold at Gleneagles are sourced.
  • Please provide the name, address and code number of the UK control body/authority that certified the estate(s) as organic.
  • Please provide the estate’s date of organic certification and the period of validity of that certificate.

Emails to:

Andrew Fairlie: reservations@andrewfairlie.co.uk

Gift of Grouse: tim.baynes@scottishlandandestates.co.uk

Ochil Foods: jeremy@ochilfoods.co.uk 

UPDATE 6 July 2017: Trading Standards investigate claim red grouse are “organic” (see here)

UPDATE 7 July 2017: Gift of Grouse chef told to refrain from calling red grouse “organic” (see here)


29 Responses to “Gift of Grouse chef claims red grouse are “organic””

  1. 1 J .Coogan
    July 1, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Brilliant bit of research as usual , emails sent , I also mentioned how he felt about feeding his guests microscopic lead particles evident in shot meat.

    • 2 J .Coogan
      July 1, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      Sorry didn’t notice you had already mentioned Lead,should have known you had all the bases covered , you really are amazing.

  2. 3 Iain Gibson
    July 1, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    RPUK deserves all our thanks for carrying out such a thorough investigation, particularly impressive in responding so quickly to yet another pile of Gift of Grouse propaganda. It is worth remembering that the people who write this blog, and receive heaps of unjust abuse from pro-shooting organisations and trolls, are doing so for compassionate reasons at no financial profit to themselves. And using science as evidence, not anecdotal confusion or deliberate obfuscation. The idea that Red Grouse ‘farming’ is either organic or sustainable is plain ridiculous, and obviously a disingenuous marketing ploy. What will the Gift of Grouse be claiming next – that eating birds contaminated with Levamisole hydrochloride protects against colon cancer?

  3. July 1, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Excellent research as usual – thank you. Emails sent to all three.

  4. 5 Pete Hoffmann
    July 1, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    Advertising Standart may like to see this…

    • 6 lizzybusy
      July 3, 2017 at 11:33 pm

      Good idea.

      The local Trading Standards office might like to look at this case. I’ve found Trading Standards officers to be better than the RSPCA in dealing with animal welfare, poisons, stink pits and livestock disposal but they also deal with law relating to produce and descriptions.

      This is a link with a job descriptions of the duties of Trading Standards Officers :


      “Trading standards officers (TSO) act on behalf of consumers and businesses to advise on, and enforce, laws that govern the way goods and services are bought, sold and hired….

      TSOs are also involved in preventing, detecting and prosecuting offences. They liaise with agencies including the police, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), Citizens Advice, trade organisations and legal professionals.

      Areas of work vary but may include:

      animal welfare;
      commercial fraud;
      product labelling;
      safety and pricing;…

      Activities vary depending on whether you are involved in all aspects of trading standards work, or whether you specialise in a particular area, but may involve: …

      checking that advertisements and labels accurately describe the properties of the products;
      taking samples for laboratory analysis;
      offering business advice to help traders comply with legislation;
      investigating suspected offences, sometimes undercover and with the police or other agencies;”

      Good luck!

      My emails will be sent tomorrow.

      • 8 lizzybusy
        July 4, 2017 at 9:28 am

        For info – some legal issues for consideration …

        Prohibition of unfair commercial practices

        “3.—(1) Unfair commercial practices are prohibited.

        (2) Paragraphs (3) and (4) set out the circumstances when a commercial practice is unfair.

        (3) A commercial practice is unfair if—

        (a)it contravenes the requirements of professional diligence; and

        (b)it materially distorts or is likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer with regard to the product.

        (4) A commercial practice is unfair if—

        (a)it is a misleading action under the provisions of regulation 5; … or

        (d)it is listed in Schedule 1.”

        Note 1
        Regulation 5
        Misleading actions (see S3(4)(a) above)

        “5.—(1) A commercial practice is a misleading action if it satisfies the conditions in either paragraph (2) or paragraph (3).

        (2) A commercial practice satisfies the conditions of this paragraph—

        (a)if it contains false information and is therefore untruthful in relation to any of the matters in paragraph (4) or if it or its overall presentation in any way deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer in relation to any of the matters in that paragraph, even if the information is factually correct; and

        (b)it causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise.

        (3) A commercial practice satisfies the conditions of this paragraph if—

        (a)it concerns any marketing of a product (including comparative advertising) which creates confusion with any products, trade marks, trade names or other distinguishing marks of a competitor; or

        (b)it concerns any failure by a trader to comply with a commitment contained in a code of conduct which the trader has undertaken to comply with, if—

        (i)the trader indicates in a commercial practice that he is bound by that code of conduct, and

        (ii)the commitment is firm and capable of being verified and is not aspirational,

        and it causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise, taking account of its factual context and of all its features and circumstances.

        (4) The matters referred to in paragraph (2)(a) are—

        (a)the existence or nature of the product;

        (b)the main characteristics of the product (as defined in paragraph 5);

        (c)the extent of the trader’s commitments;

        (d)the motives for the commercial practice; …

        (f)any statement or symbol relating to direct or indirect sponsorship or approval of the trader or the product;

        (5) In paragraph (4)(b), the “main characteristics of the product” include—

        (b)benefits of the product;

        (c)risks of the product;

        (d)execution of the product;

        (e)composition of the product; …

        (l)fitness for purpose of the product; …

        (p)geographical or commercial origin of the product;

        Note 2
        SCHEDULE 1
        Commercial practices which are in all circumstances considered unfair

        1. Claiming to be a signatory to a code of conduct when the trader is not.

        3. Claiming that a code of conduct has an endorsement from a public or other body which it does not have.

        4. Claiming that a trader (including his commercial practices) or a product has been approved, endorsed or authorised by a public or private body when the trader, the commercial practices or the product have not or making such a claim without complying with the terms of the approval, endorsement or authorisation.”

  5. July 1, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Well done for the usual forensic response !
    Surely grouse from driven grouse moors are approaching toxic waste status not organic fare !!!!
    I fear for the few remaining raptors that pick up the carcasses or dare to take the live birds.
    Oh dear, I think I’ve just given the grouse lobby another excuse…..the grouse are poisoning the raptors to extinction !

    Keep up the pressure !

  6. 10 Gerard
    July 1, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Letter sent:

    Dear Andrew

    I was concerned about claims that I read recently, that the red grouse that you sell in your restaurant are organic. Knowing the standard management practices on red grouse moors; particularly excessive use of anthelmintic and other chemotherapy agents; and the fact that some birds can contain excessive quantities of lead, having been shot with it; this seems like an extraordinary claim.

    Please could you supply the names and addresses of the grouse shooting estates that supply red grouse to Gleneagles for human consumption?

    Please also provide the name, address and code number of the UK control body/authority that certified the estate(s) as organic.

    Please additionally supply the estate’s date of organic certification and the period of validity of that certificate.

    Yours sincerely

  7. July 1, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Its not fit for human consumption and we have to have it banned. We must close down the food standards loopholes that let this into the human food chain. We have to nip these publicity stunts in the bud. So it looks like the Gleneagles Hotel might be misrepresenting and offering dodgy produce in their kitchens. If this is the case then we should help others to become informed. When the keepers force this stuff down school kids during their educational “visits”… we should ensure that the education authorities, head teachers and class room staff are informed. When the public grant making bodies promote this unregulated bi-product of a drunken days willy waving then we should make sure that they are informed. The tourist board, SNH and the Scottish Government should not be supporting the promotion of this toxic “food” source.

    Every time we see an open door we should ask for it to be closed politely, scientifically, logically.

  8. July 1, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Emails sent and an invitation for Andrew to attend the Hen Harrier Day event at RSPB Vane Farm on the 5th of August.

  9. 14 Nimby
    July 1, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    It also begs the question, setting aside advertising standards, if this bunch are trying to damage the reputation of Scottish food? Surely this is not helpful to Scottish tourism industry?

  10. 15 dave angel
    July 2, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Farmers, growers and producers have to jump through a lot of hoops to acquire and maintain organic certification. I don’t imagine they, nor for that matter any of the certifying bodies, will be happy at the term being undermined, for commercial gain, by the Gift For Grouse PR campaign.

    As for Andrew Fairlie, he should know exactly what is involved when describing produce as organic. Either he has been misquoted, or he has been cavalier to the point of dishonesty in describing grouse as organic. That’s not clever in an industry that relies so heavily on public reputation.

    Maybe the numerous food writers, critics and restaurant reviewers out there will take an interest in the story. Joanna Blythman springs to mind.

  11. 16 Pip
    July 2, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Sorry, but I don’t see anything wrong with the “chefs” description:

    1) They’re sustainable – because of the thousands bred and released every year.
    2) Exact provenance – from Scotland (how exact do you want it?)
    3) Organic – in as much as they are an organism (much like me surely?) I mean he didn’t seem to say they were organically produced……………..

    Personally I wouldn’t touch the filthy things but some people will put the strangest things in their mouths – give me a battery chicken mechanically recovered slurry burger any day of the week.


    • 17 J .Coogan
      July 2, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      They are not bred and released , that’s pheasants can’t do that with Grouse.

      • July 2, 2017 at 6:18 pm

        The thing is…they can breed them for release very easily… but the keepers dont want the estate owners to find that out… just saying.

        • 19 Iain Gibson
          July 2, 2017 at 7:15 pm

          That’s a rather odd suggestion as to how naive estate owners are – they might be about ecological matters generally, but I’m sure if that was economically viable they would know all about it and be practicing it already. I assumed that Pip’s comment was ironic, supposed to be entertaining not taken seriously.

          • 20 Merlin
            July 3, 2017 at 7:20 pm

            I heard from a very reliable source that they have been bred in captivity and released in Wales some years ago but the nobs complained they did not fly as good as wild bred birds.

            • 21 Paul V Irving
              July 4, 2017 at 6:37 am

              It is perfectly possible to breed Red Grouse in captivity but not on a viable commercial scale and certainly not on a scale to provide birds for shooting. One of the reasons shooting grouse is seen as an elite part of shooting is that the birds are genuinely wild, not that I favour it myself.

    • 22 Dylanben
      July 2, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      Don’t know what’s ‘filthy’ about Red Grouse, unless it’s a reflection of what Man has done to them. In my eyes, a cock Red Grouse in pristine breeding plumage and seen in good light is a sight to behold – though I doubt that any of their slaughterers would be interested in such a matter.
      As for breeding them to release, it must have been tried and failed as they release RLPs here and pretend that they’re grouse – sad bastards!

  12. July 2, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    I note on the Cabrach and Glenfididich estates Facebook page that they appeared to be full of self-congratulations for donating 160 pheasant breasts to the charity Aberdeen Cyrenians (see entry 27 January 2017 at 18:31). So I wrote to the charity making them aware that the estate has a history of investigations relating to wildlife crime – notwithstanding the poor, female hen harrier in 2013… here is their reply:

    Re: Pheasant Donation from Cabrach Estate
    Thank you for bringing this serious issue to our attention and please forgive the delayed response to your email of the 5th May 2017. I am the new Head of Fundraising and on behalf of Aberdeen Cyrenians I am pleased that you have alerted us to these wildlife crime allegations involving the Cabrach Estate. Aberdeen Cyrenians does not condone any form of unlawful, criminal activities whatsoever. We accepted the donation of the pheasant breasts, on 27th January 2017, in good faith and they were used to provide dinners to our service-users. As a charity, we do not like to see usable food items go to waste and are grateful to the public for their support through donations such as food items. The member of staff who accepted this food donation acted with the best of intentions and was unaware of the history of wildlife crime related allegations that have apparently been ongoing at the Cabrach Estate. From our records this appears to be a one-off donation. Now that Aberdeen Cyrenians is aware of these serious allegations we can act appropriately if approached by the Cabrach Estate in the future.

    [Ed: thanks, Cairnton. It’s worth pointing out that there is a new gamekeeping team in place now and as far as we’re aware, with no reports of alleged wildlife crime]

  13. 25 Mike
    July 3, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Excellent research and investigative journalism, yet again. Will it be picked up by the media? It seems doubtful.
    Would it be worth another tack – to provide a scoop to a select press journalist rather than running the item under RPS blog ( and then cover it once it has gone public ). That way there is more incentive for a paper to break the story, or are they just too controlled by game shooting interests, disinterested or downright scared?

    • 26 J .Coogan
      July 4, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Good point Mike , I totally agree that many of these findings deserve a wider audience, I have contacted a few conservation minded journalists myself drawing attention to some of the more damning stories , but they seem unwilling or uninterested. Perhaps your last sentence unfortunately has more than a grain of truth to it.

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