Waitrose and lead in game meat

You may easily have missed this statement on the Waitrose website! In fact, it took me 15 minutes to find it and I was told that it was there and what the wording was. You certainly wouldn’t find it easily if, for example, you’d heard that Waitrose had gone lead-free and you wanted to buy some lead-free game meat. It’s a poor show, I’m afraid. It isn’t up front at all.

Having said that, having seen the explanation I would be prepared to cut Waitrose a bit of slack this year – but not very much. They got loads of good publicity for what they were going to do and they have hidden away the information saying that they can’t actually do it.

Lead shot pledge

Waitrose & Partners is the largest retailer of game in the UK. We sell prepared wood pigeon, partridge and pheasant during the season. We are supplied by a single game dealer who ensures all the game source is from environmentally minded British shoots and reared to the highest standards. We monitor the shoots we source from and expect them to adhere to our bespoke standards of animal welfare and shoot behaviour. 

From the 2019-20 season we began phasing out the use of lead shot on the Estates from which we source our game. We publicly stated that all the Estates we buy from will be required to use lead alternatives such as steel or bismuth from season 2020/21. We are disappointed that the COVID-19 outbreak has set back our plans as many of the Estates that supported our pledge are not shooting this season. However, we expect that more than half of the game on our shelves will be lead free during the 2020/21 season. As a result, our game will continue to carry the FSA lead warning which states “Consuming lead is harmful, health experts advise to minimise lead consumption as much as possible. Anyone who eats lead-shot game should be aware of the risks posed by consuming large amounts of lead, especially children and pregnant women.” In agreement with our game supplier, we are now pledging that by season 2021-22 all Waitrose & Partners game will be brought to bag without the use of lead ammunition.

https://www.waitrose.com/home/inspiration/about_waitrose/the_waitrose_way/waitrose_animal_welfarecommitments.html
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16 Replies to “Waitrose and lead in game meat”

  1. Not sure I’d cut them any slack. They accept that it’s harmful and unacceptable to take these risks with customers. They have the easy option to not sell toxic meat for a year while they source safe alternatives. But they are going ahead anyway. Given that they have led on this issue and understand the problem this is a dreadful position to be in.

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    1. Indeed I agree Ian, surely what they should have done is gone back to their source and said if they are using lead we are not buying any of it. It would have been a safer option for the customer and made much bigger impact with the shooting cabal. This fudge moves us no further forward, so they deserve no slack at all.

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  2. "However, we expect that more than half of the game on our shelves will be lead free during the 2020/21 season." So why not sell just this 50% and not the rest I wonder. Having recognised the problem they are now apparently willing to knowingly poison their customers. Not a good look.
    I also wonder what "all the game sourced is from environmentally minded British shoots and reared to the highest standards" actually means. Perhaps they can tell us.
    "We monitor the shoots we source from and expect them to adhere to our bespoke standards of animal welfare and shoot behaviour." I also wonder what does this mean exactly.
    Finally Mark, it might be worth asking whether all their shoots are registered with the APHA Poultry Register as required.

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    1. Ive have been eating lead shot game for years.pheasants vermin shot pigeons rabbits etc has done me know harm

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      1. Paul - know harm eh? interesting? Can you produce a medical certificate? Thank you for your first coment here.

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  3. My understanding is that Waitrose’s commitment to moving to selling only game shot without the use of lead ammunition remains as strong. They have been able to move only part way there this year and have committed to being fully there by the next season. I understand why Covid has made this transition more difficult than they had hoped (as it has so many things), and so I appreciate their position on this.
    While I also understand the views expressed above, Waitrose have led the way on this issue in the game retail sector, and this has undoubtedly helped move things forward in the UK. I would love to hear from any other supermarkets or game retailers that have done a better job than Waitrose on this issue so far – as I’m unaware of any. John Gregson's talk on this issue at the recent GWCT conference is honest, sends out a powerful message and I applaud him and Waitrose for it: https://www.gwct.org.uk/blogs/news/2020/october/video-waitrose-%E2%80%93-our-stance-on-lead-shot/

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    1. Rhys and Debbie - I appreciate you coming on here and standing up for Waitrose (though the offer is open for them to stand up for themselves too) as you have worked closely with them on this issue and on this issue for a long time.

      Where Waitrose have gone wrong is in not being open with people about why they aren't doing what they said they were going to do.

      Lots of readers of this blog saw John Gregson's talk posted here https://markavery.info/2020/10/22/speaks-for-itself-really/ as recently as 22 October and were thoroughly impressed by it. When they walked into a Waitrose with their money they found that there were warnings of lead in game meat on the shelves. When they then asked Waitrose what they were doing they were not pointed in the direction of their pledge but were told 'No, no, we meant next year' (see 29 October https://markavery.info/2020/10/29/waitrose-slipping-on-its-lead-free-promise/) which was a corporate failure in communication which looked like backsliding. And since the lead-free pledge is incredibly difficult to find on the Waitrose website it comes as no surprise that people are pissed off at worst and disappointed at best.

      But the point made here several times is still fair - why, when Waitrose knows that lead is a health hazard, are they still selling leaded game meat. It's difficult to see that as anything other than prioritisng money before customers' health. So as I say, I'd cut them a bit of slack (though not buy their game yet) but I can understand why others won't be so reasonable and generous.

      You're not recommending we all buy Waitrose game this year are you? No, nor me.

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      1. Best that can be said is that they do at least mention lead, unlike Sainsbury’s who chose not to tell their customers at all. Waitrose, just the right side of legal, just! Unlike the competition.

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      2. Don't bother just keep eating the processed crap you obviously have faith in because it doesn't involve tweed wearing toffs blasting things from the sky!
        Nothing to do with being low class of course. Or is it just to make money?

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        1. William - that's very funny, do you do caricatures of other country sports people too?

          I'll say this very slowly so that you can keep up with the complex argument; NOT USING LEAD AMMUNITION DOES NOT MEAN NOT USING AMMUNITION, IT MEANS USING AMMUNITION WITHOUT LEAD IN IT.

          Tonight we had homemade shaksuka, thanks.

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  4. Although I am disappointed that Waitrose was unable to deliver on its aspiration to stop selling game shot with lead ammunition in the current shooting season, I do urge people to recognise the extent to which Waitrose has led the way and stuck its neck out on this issue. My first direct contact with Waitrose was when they were the first retailer to label their game products with a warning to consumers about the health risks associated with eating game shot with lead. I was quite critical of the text of their label and they were quick to amend it. I was not ambitious enough then to suggest that they stop selling game shot with lead altogether, but after thinking about the labelling issue, Waitrose came up with that idea themselves. I think they became aware that having both a health warning and a "Healthy Eating" sticker on the same pheasant product was not a good option. I have corresponded on this issue with all the large UK retailers of game meat products. Most of them have either ignored me or attempted to mislead me about what they are selling. Waitrose stands out as having listened and moved forward on it. The influence on the shooting industry of them having done so should not be underestimated. I doubt that the February 2020 statement by the shooting organisations that lead shotgun ammunition should not be used for game shooting within 5 years would have happened if Waitrose had not shown them that the writing is on the wall. I, more than most, want action to resolve this issue to be much quicker than it has been, but I believe that Waitrose deserve a lot of credit for what they have said and done so far and for what I am sure they will do next season.

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    1. Rhys and Debbie - I appreciate you coming on here and standing up for Waitrose (though the offer is open for them to stand up for themselves too) as you have worked closely with them on this issue and on this issue for a long time.

      Where Waitrose have gone wrong is in not being open with people about why they aren't doing what they said they were going to do.

      Lots of readers of this blog saw John Gregson's talk posted here https://markavery.info/2020/10/22/speaks-for-itself-really/ as recently as 22 October and were thoroughly impressed by it. When they walked into a Waitrose with their money they found that there were warnings of lead in game meat on the shelves. When they then asked Waitrose what they were doing they were not pointed in the direction of their pledge but were told 'No, no, we meant next year' (see 29 October https://markavery.info/2020/10/29/waitrose-slipping-on-its-lead-free-promise/) which was a corporate failure in communication which looked like backsliding. And since the lead-free pledge is incredibly difficult to find on the Waitrose website it comes as no surprise that people are pissed off at worst and disappointed at best.

      But the point made here several times is still fair - why, when Waitrose knows that lead is a health hazard, are they still selling leaded game meat. It's difficult to see that as anything other than prioritisng money before customers' health. So as I say, I'd cut them a bit of slack (though not buy their game yet) but I can understand why others won't be so reasonable and generous.

      You're not recommending we all buy Waitrose game this year are you? No, nor me.

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  5. Still hypercritical that your concern is that a few meals of game which may have been shot with lead may harm the person consuming it but you are happy that they continue to sell cigarettes which have a proven link to cancer and carry a warning on every packet “smoking kills”.
    I know which one has the significantly higher risk to health.

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    1. john - you aren't interested in the cancer victims are you? You're trying to make some point and doing it badly.

      Waitrose have mucked up their communications and made themselves look like lying idiots whereas they are probably neither liars nor idiots.

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      1. Probably Waitrose were very sincere in their goal of only selling game harvested with non-toxic shot, however the shooting industry are struggling to meet their requirements, your focus is always on attacking shooting via in this case the health of those consuming game meet, my point was their are very much bigger issues effecting the health of people than game meet, which you are happy to ignore if it does not suite your agenda.

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        1. John - that isn't what I've said in these posts so if we are to talk of focus you should focus on getting your sights adjusted and not just shooting in the dark.

          I like game meat - it is close to the only meat I eat these days. My difficulty is in sourcing lead-free game meat except for venison from Forestry England and Scotland.

          This blog was, if you ever care to read it, about Waitrose's fumbling of their communications. Do you work in Waitrose's communications team by any chance?

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