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Episode 8: Fare Game

Episode 8, Fare Game

Callum Hughes has done what many people dream about - turned a favourite hobby into a successful business.

The Southland entrepreneur hunts and processes wild game, including venison, hare, rabbit, goat and wild pork, and sells it to restaurants around the country. 

"Enjoying what you do is a big part of it," says Callum, "but if you know and believe in your product then that shows through in the end result."

Callum, a former police officer, grew up on a farm in South Otago where hunting was a regular activity.

He'd always wanted to start his own business and one night he tossed ideas around over a few whiskies with his father, brothers, and friend and chopper pilot Jeff Shanks, in a remote hut in the Fiordland National Park.

Callum's suggestion that he could hunt deer and supply it to restaurants got an enthusiastic response from the group. 

Seven years on, the idea has become a reality. Fare Game is a busy family business which owns two refrigerated trucks and a purpose-built meat processing plant in Invercargill, and employs four staff.

Restaurants in the Southern Lakes region take the bulk of Fare Game's meat but the company also supplies outlets in Christchurch, Wellington and as far north as Whangarei.  

Miles Better Pies in Te Anau is one of Callum's long-time customers.

"He's probably our biggest consumer of diced venison," says Callum.  "All he makes is pies and sells them through one shop in Te Anau where 45-seater buses pull up all day long, tourists pile out and everyone buys a venison pie.  In one day he might use 30 to 40 kilograms of venison.

"Miles just keeps pumping out those pies," laughs Callum. 
Deer are mostly hunted from helicopters in Fiordland or on farmland around the Southern Lakes.  Refrigerated trucks are crucial to the business - after an animal is shot, it can safely be left in one for up to 96 hours before reaching the processing plant. 

When the hunting's good, Callum arrives back in town with a truck full of venison ready for processing.

Food safety requirements are rigorous and meat inspectors check every deer and a large sample of the rabbits and hares. 

Traceability is also important.  When a deer is shot, it is tagged and Callum takes a GPS reference of the location. The information remains with the deer right through to the moment when it is served in a restaurant, meaning that a Queenstown diner can order Mt Nicholas fallow rack and see the area their meal came from out the window. 

One downside of the job is that it often takes Callum away from home and his young children -Lucia, who is three, and Zac, six months.

His wife Debbie says while the absences are hard, the business also provides a lot of flexibility and Callum can down tools and take a break if he needs to. 

But Callum's choice of activity when he's on holiday shows how much he loves his job. 

"I had a few days off last month," says Callum, "so I got some mates together and went hunting!" 

To find out more about Callum's business visit

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Jeff Aldridge

Field sound
John Patrick

Offline editor
Brent Whitwell

Online editor
Alex Wright

Sound mixer
Ian Leslie

Sound Editor
Don Paulin

Vivienne Jeffs

Network executive
Jude Callen

Consultant producer
Frank Torley

Associate producer
Dan Henry

Production manager
Robyn Best

Dan Henry

Julian O'Brien