Judge forces firm to bin £135k of meat

A pheasant.

A pheasant.

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Thousands of Christmas dinners are to go up in smoke on the orders of a judge.

Game birds including duck, pheasant,turkey and partridge will be taken from a cold store and incinerated.

District Judge Jeff Brailsford

District Judge Jeff Brailsford

The birds are perfectly fit to eat and would have been on supermarket shelves for festive feasting.

However, District Judge Jeff Brailsford ruled that the Poulton-based company which produced them, Hy-Fly Ltd, failed to keep proper paperwork and condemned 18 pallets of meat worth an estimated £135,000 on the retail market.

He ruled the contents of the pallets was untraceable and the contents unknown.

Hy-Fly hatcheries produce 1.5m game bird eggs a year –250,000 of them pheasant –making them the biggest game bird breeders in the country.

When the birds have grown the firm supplies shoots the length and breadth of the UK include the estates of landed gentry.

Then any surplus not used in country sports are used on shoots on Hy-Fly land or culled and sent to a poultry processing factory in the Ribble Valley and then retailed by supermarkets.

A court heard yesterday how an investigation into Hy-Fly started after council staff raided a woman’s pie bakery.

Lancaster Council health officers went to a cold store in the city and seized 1,187 cases of duck,95 cases of partridge and eight boxes of turkeys.

Also seized under a warrant was 256 kilograms of duck and duck breast meat and 375 kilos of mixed duck,pheasant and partridge.

Their investigation was sparked by the conviction of a local pie maker in August this year, following a raid on her bakery in which the ingredients for her game pies was removed from her freezer.

It was contained in unmarked bags which had no use by dates,content description or origination information

The owner was prosecuted and a hearing was told the meat posed a serious risk to public health.

The discovery of an invoice from Hy-Fly at the bakery led to a larger inquiry into the hatchery’s licence to handle meat and the discovery of the large quantities of frozen game birds in a Lancaster cold store.

An application by the council to have that meat destroyed went before Blackpool Magistrates Court.

The council said that the meat, which was due to go into the food chain, had no traceability.

Granting the destruction order after a two-day hearing, the judge said:”This has been a very unusual case.

“What paperwork there is shows no logic or sequence which concerns me quite considerably.

“There is little traceability or provenance and that leaves a great deal to be desired.”

Hy-Fly Hatcheries, which runs a multi-million pound operation on Tongues Lane, Poulton, objected to the food condemnation order.

Ian Bruce, for Lancaster Council, said:”Some of the pallets of meat seized had no documentation and other did not have the right documents.”

“Then if there were documents they did not match up with the entries kept in five notebooks by Hy-Fly.”

“This firm did not handle handling the meat properly.”

“It is a question of when and where had it come from when it goes into the food chain. Twenty-three cases are missing and no one knows where they are.”

Company barrister Ben Williams said: “Some mention has been made about the meat smelling and some carcasses being crushed.

“But tests have revealed that the meat is fit for human consumption.

“Good food is about to be destroyed.

“If you follow things to the letter of the law you should not give a brace of birds to a beater or someone shooting.

“Things may appear to be a bit rough and ready. It may seem primitive but you don’t take lap tops on a shoot in a field. A notebook is used – that’s the way things have always been done.”

Hy-fly must pay court costs of almost £10,000 and the cost of transporting and destruction of the meat.