All year round, and much sought after by top chefs and gourmets around the world, the red grouse is a completely wild bird unique to Britain. Living exclusively on the heather moorlands of the UK, each bird can be traced back to the very Estate where it fledged and matured. Very fast on the wing, reaching speeds of up to 80 mph, it is also agile creating very lean dark brown meat bursting with flavour. It is a seasonal delicacy for all Brits to be proud of and one which leading restaurateurs vie to be the first to bring to the table each August.
The 200 year-old tradition of shooting grouse is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most challenging countryside sports. People visit the moors of Britain from all over the world either to shoot grouse or to marvel at the open expanses that buzz with wildlife during the breeding season and turn purple in August.
Red Grouse - The Facts • With striking russet red plumage Red Grouse are smaller than their rare UK cousin, the aptly named Black Grouse
• There are 250 grouse moors in the UK
• The grouse shooting season is very short lasting just 16 weeks. It starts on 12th August and continues until 10th December
• During this time fresh grouse can be bought direct from the estates like the Barningham Estate in upper Teesdale www.ovenreadygrouse.co.uk
• Grouse shooting only takes place if there are enough birds on the moors to ensure a viable future population and only the surplus is harvested by shooting
• The red grouse is a completely wild bird and only found in Britain where its rare heather habitat is managed by gamekeepers
• Three quarters of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in the UK and management for the red grouse has safeguarded the heather that is at the heart of northern National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and beloved of millions of visitors each year
• Management of the habitat involves gamekeepers controlling the number of predators that would otherwise feast on the vulnerable ground-nesting birds. Gamekeepers also carry out careful rotational burning of the heather to encourage fresh heather shoots that make up 99% of the grouse diet
• Over £75 million is ploughed into managing the moorland habitat in the uplands of North England and Scotland each year, boosting the local economy and providing a safe haven for other important and threatened ground nesting birds such as merlin, lapwing, golden plover and curlew.
To find out more about this famous bird, that is not only delicious, but whose management puts so much back, visit the Moorland Association’s website www.moorlandassociation.org
Young or old?
Knowing if your bird is this year’s parent or young, can help you decide how to cook it. This year’s young will be 3-4 months old if bought in August/September and the flesh is more tender and less strongly flavoured and can be pan-fried or roasted, whereas older birds need slow cooking to release the more intense flavour and soften the meat. In the feather, an ‘old’ grouse’s weight can be supported by it’s beak when hung from your fingers and its claws do not bend under pressure.
The Countryside Alliance Foundation is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales number 5669451 and is a registered charity number 1121034.
Registered office: 367 Kennington Road, London SE11 4PT