Ministry of Agriculture

Game Birds


WHAT ARE GAME BIRDS?

Game birds are traditionally wild birds that are raised in captivity for food consumption. Pheasants, quail, partridge, and squab (baby pigeons) are raised in BC.

WHERE ARE GAME BIRDS PRODUCED IN BC?

Most game birds for commercial sale are raised in the Fraser Valley and processed at one of BC's two game bird slaughter plants.

HOW MANY GAME BIRDS DO WE PRODUCE?

Annually, BC produces for food consumption approximately 15,000 pheasants, 350,000 quail, 19,000 partridge, and 50,000 squab. Squab production and consumption continue to grow rapidly reflecting demand from ethnic markets.

HOW ARE GAME BIRDS PRODUCED?

Pheasants have a dressed weight of 1.22kg. They convert feed at the rate of 4.5kg per kg of body weight gain and reach market weight at 20 weeks. The birds require between 0.5 to 1.5m2 per bird depending on the management skills of the producer. Mortality may be as high as 14 percent. The birds are fed high quality turkey rations and need to be beak trimmed at 6 weeks of age to prevent cannibalism.

Quail are raised in conditions similar to broiler chickens. They are small birds and require little floor space. They consume 3.5kg of feed per kg of gain. Quails are ready for market in seven to seven and a half weeks. At maturity the birds weigh 0.2kg eviscerated.

Partridge are produced much like broiler chickens.

Squab are the young offspring of pigeons. Pigeons produce 10 squab per breeding pair per year. Each squab weighs 0.45kg dressed weight. The adut pigeons are fed a high quality grain diet but the squab consume a special “pigeon milk” produced by both parents.  "Pigeon milk" is formed by special fluid-filled cells that slough off of the lining of the crop. Pigeon milk is highly nutritious and is the only food required by the squab for about 4 weeks.  Squab are processed before they start to consume grain. Squab production is labour intensive.

WHAT DOES A GAME BIRD LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?

Game birds are produced for their meat. They look like small roasters when they are cooked. In restaurants the larger game birds such as pheasants may be served as quarters or halves. Sometimes only the breast meat is served, particularly in the case of quail and partridge. Quail eggs are boiled and pickled.

Some pheasants are produced for use on non-agricultural hunting reserves. Some quail are raised for feeding falcons and other hunting birds.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE GAME BIRD AFTER LEAVES THE FARM?

The farmer can sell the product to the processing plant where the birds are dressed for sale it to the hotels, restaurants and institutions or to retail outlets. Some farmers may have a processing plant on-farm or they pay a processing plant to process the birds, then take the birds back and sell them themselves. It is important with these new niche markets to maintain a constant supply and consistent quality.

WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE GAME BIRD PRODUCER FACE?

All game bird producers are faced with competition from low cost imported product from the U.S. There is no supply management system or border controls on the amount of product that can be imported so markets tend to be cyclical.

As a result most producers are hesitant to expand their operations using borrowed capital. Competition amongst producers for existing markets in BC is intense.

WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING GAME BIRDS?

  • Game bird producer
  • Feed companies
  • Equipment suppliers
  • Processing plants
  • Provincial and federal meat inspectors
  • Specialty market distributors

Interesting Fact About Game Birds:

Producers of pheasants are faced with problems of "feather picking" or "cannibalism", the tendency of birds to eat one another. Often the producers have to fit each bird with a coloured plastic blinder in front of its eyes to prevent the birds from pecking each other.


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