Game over: Top-down meat nicknaming project goes belly-up

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Wild boar hot pot

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has canceled a project that had called on the public to help select nicknames for deer meat and wild boar meat, to increase the consumption of game. The project was shut down midway through the selection process because of objections from restaurants that serve game meat, and the approximately 550 applications received were all for naught.

“We apologize to those who applied to the project with their ideas,” a ministry official said.

Game meat from wild animals such as deer or boar has been gaining attention in Japan in recent years as “gibier,” a word borrowed from French.

The ministry solicited new nicknames for deer and wild boar online from November to December last year to expand the consumption of meat from the animals, which are exterminated as pests.

To get people thinking, the ministry provided examples such as “natural protein” for deer meat, which is high in protein and low in fat, and “juicy meat of the forest” for wild boar meat, which is rich in fat and vitamins.

During the six-week application period, about 550 nicknames were received from all over Japan. While the ministry was working to narrow down the list, questions were raised as to whether the government was the only entity with a strong interest in the project.

Hurried efforts were then made to ask the opinions of restaurants, processing facilities and distributors that deal in game meat. The majority of the responses were negative, such as, “The term ‘gibier’ is just now becoming popular, and [the project] will confuse things,” and “You can assign nicknames, but we won’t use them.”

The ministry decided to cancel the project as it would be pointless if the nicknames were not going to take root.

A ministry official regretted that the ministry had erred by not consulting the people in the industry who would be expected to use the nicknames the most.

The ministry has not announced the cancellation of the project, nor has it informed the applicants.

According to the ministry, about 670,000 deer and 680,000 wild boar were killed in fiscal 2020. Of that total, about 90,000 deer and 30,000 wild boar were used as game meat on the market. The ministry has set a goal of doubling the amount of game used to 4,000 tons by fiscal 2025 from fiscal 2019.