Nagano town renders meat from pesky deer into pet food

JIJI

The city of Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, has long battled damage to its agriculture from deer.

After capturing and killing the animals, the city wound up incinerated most of them, and at considerable cost. Now, taking a new tack, the local government has set up a slaughter and processing plant to sell deer meat for use in pet food.

The initiative has attracted attention from municipalities that are similarly suffering from damage to farm produce from birds and other animals. The plant has received frequent visits by government personnel eager to acquire know-how.

In Nagano Prefecture, agricultural damage from deer totaled about ¥189 million in fiscal 2015. Of some 31,800 deer captured, meat from only 2,000 of them was used for human consumption, with the rest buried or incinerated, according to an official of the prefecture’s wild animal damage and game animal promotion office.

Komoro, located at the foot of Mount Asama, has a thriving fruit and highland vegetable cultivation industry, but the city has been troubled by a growing deer population. In fiscal 2015, it captured 220 deer and incinerated most of them, which proved a drain on local finances.

The city then constructed the slaughter and processing plant at a cost of about ¥60 million, using state grants intended to promote regional revitalization. It decided to use the facility to produce pet food, although it also obtained prefectural permission for the plant to process and sell meat for human consumption.

The decision reflects the high quality and safety requirements for edible meat. “For meat for human consumption, the deer need to be slaughtered and processed within an hour or two,” an official of the animal damage and game animal promotion office said.

“(Processing) pet food is a good way to make use of meat from large numbers of deer,” said Tsuyoshi Takeshita, a Komoro city official involved in the operation of the plant. “Many local governments have problems with how to dispose of captured deer. We receive visits (from local government personnel) almost every week.”

The plant has rooms for slaughtering, processing and refrigeration. To ensure safety, it also has metal and radiation detectors.

Five workers are engaged in the slaughter of deer, which takes about 20 minutes per animal. Since the start of operations in April, the plant had slaughtered about 170 deer through mid-October and sold the meat to manufacturers of pet food.

Currently, the plant accepts only deer captured in the city of Komoro. Due to the limited number, slaughtering takes place only one day a week.

In the next fiscal year from April 2017, the factory plans to accept deer from nearby municipalities in Nagano Prefecture, aiming to slaughter 1,500 of them annually for stable supplies of deer meat for pet food.

A project is under way to develop original products for sale as Komoro-brand pet food.

“By making good use of deer meat, we hope to create jobs and incomes to revitalize the region,” Takeshita said.