My School Lunch - Year of Food and Farming
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Each month we will cover a new topic relating to animals or animal products that come from the farm, this is what we have planned:

Milking a cowOctober - Milk
November - Beef
December - Turkey
January - Eggs
February - Pork
March - Lamb
April - Chicken
May - Ham and bacon
June - Fish
July - Game e.g. pheasant, grouse

This Month
When game is not something you play

Farming is not just about growing crops and rearing animals.  In some farms these traditional farming methods have been difficult to continue because of the quality of the land, the climate changes and demand for the products.  More farms have been encouraged to do other things, this process is called diversification.  It means a farmer might: turn some old buildings into new buildings to let as offices; use the milk from their dairy herd to make ice cream; set up a farm shop to sell the products of the farm; use some spare bedrooms as bed and breakfast for people visiting the countryside; and rear game birds for shooting.

Shooting is a traditional part of the countryside.  It has been used to keep the number of pests on the farm down like rabbits and foxes.  But nowadays there are some farms that encourage shooting as a sport on their farms even though some people think this is cruel.  People shoot at birds when they are in flight.  The birds could be pheasants, partridge, ducks and grouse.  These birds are often described as "game birds" or "game".

These farms breed the birds and then sell spaces on an event called a shoot.  This is where Pheasant roaming freepeople pay to shoot at the birds when they are in flight.  The cost can be considerable, as much as £1,500 for a day's shooting and refreshments.  However, the birds do have a chance of getting away.  A shoot will employ people called beaters.  They will go through the woods beating the ground so that the birds fly into the air where they can be shot at.  The people shooting usually have a dog, called a retriever, to go and pick up the dead birds in their mouth and bring them back.

A farmer has to ensure there are enough animals for a shooting season.  This means that each year they need to buy in more young birds.  They might be eggs or very young birds such as day-olds.  These are cheaper to buy than older birds because they have not had to be fed or looked after.  If you buy eggs you need to put them in an incubator until the eggs hatch.  An incubator is a warm box that is like the eggs being kept warm in the nest by its mother.  An egg hatches when the baby bird is old and strong enough to peck through the shell of the egg  and come out into the open.  A pheasant egg will need about 23 days to hatch and if kept in the incubator will need to be turned three times a day.

The young birds are kept in a poult.  This is a heated building with an indoor night shelter and covered grass to run on.  When they are about seven weeks old they can be put into an outdoor pen.  These pens help the birds get used to the wild.  They are large, open topped and have items like shrubs, bushes and trees.  Over a period of time the birds gain in confidence and will start to explore the nearby woods and then live there.  It is important that traditional pests like foxes are kept under control as they will kill the young birds.

If you are eating a game bird that has been shot you will need to be careful to avoid the small bits of pellet that were used to kill the bird.  The game birds can't be shot all the year round, they can only be shot between certain dates.  This is called a season and this is why you have "shooting seasons".  So different birds can only be bought when they are "in season".  Not everyone likes to eat game but it is certainly worth a try even though it is much more expensive that birds like chicken and turkey.

Pheasant ready to eat

Previous Months
June Fishing for food
May You can smell it cooking in the kitchen
April A fowl only by name because it is great to eat
March In season from April to September
February Where does pork come from
January Look out for the Lion
December Our favourite seasonal dish
November From field to fork
October It is white and full of Calcium
September All about bangers and much more
Nottingham City Council
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