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The Deer Farmer Saturday 20th December, 2008
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website | Opinion

Nothing like Kiwi product

Velvet grown in NZ. Anonymity will be a thing of the past.
10-09-2007 | webmaster

The air trip back to this side of the globe was a hideous experience, but there was one intoxicating highlight when I was in transit in Bombay and knew with a certainty that I was in India because it smelt like India. I think a connoisseur would probably even be able to tell which city they were in, or that they were in a Russian plane, just by the smell.

The human computer is a truly incredible thing. Our brain collects a lot of information which it then filters to say what makes a place distinctive. These sensory signatures are stored away for future reference.
Products have distinctive signatures. I remember stories of stolen possum skins being recognised due to the distinct way the hunter had tacked them out. And I?m sure that Don Bennett (our velvet buyer) would recognise a plastic bag full of Solway spiker velvet, brushed just so and stacked in there like sardines.

In the world of unbranded raw products, the people working with them often have a pretty good idea of origin, sometimes the individual producer. This wealth of experience carried around in human computers is something that science has struggled to reproduce. Consumers also can be quite clued up as to the origin of product. Any Kiwi can tell you that Aussie milk and meat tastes funny.

In the market place of New Zealand velvet, all sorts of strange happenings go on. Unbranded raw product can end up being sold as something it?s not. Players in the market may know full well that product being sold as NZ velvet just isn?t, or conversely, velvet may be sold as Korean when it is actually from NZ. Product from any old place being sold as NZ velvet damages our brand, but until now there hasn?t been a lot we could do about it. Going into the market and saying, ?We?re pretty sure this velvet is (or isn?t) NZ velvet,? is a waste of time!

Enter some clever scientists with some clever technology! Analysis of isotopes (chemically identical but anatomically different forms of an element) can identify the regional signature of our products. All going well, we will be able to scientifically prove that velvet is or isn?t NZ velvet. Additionally, a producer will be able to actually certify the point-of-origin of their product, and that is GREAT news for deer farmers! Now we (nearly) have a tool to help us stop that from happening. It?s just a matter of applying existing technology to our velvet and velvet from other countries to establish what the signatures are.

Luckily, as farmers all we have to do is carry on doing what we are doing: growing our velvet and other products in our unique NZ environment. We can let someone else do the science, which involves looking at the ratios of different Carbon isotopes. Ultimately, NZ farmers will be the only ones that get the credit when we do a great job of producing velvet. And, inferior product from other places will no longer damage our brand!

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