Tess Nichol is the Consumer Affairs reporter for the Herald.

US eatery pays dearly for deer deception

An American restaurant has paid a dear price for hocking off Kiwi deer meat as Alaskan reindeer. File photo / Warren Buckland
An American restaurant has paid a dear price for hocking off Kiwi deer meat as Alaskan reindeer. File photo / Warren Buckland

An American restaurant has paid a dear price for hocking off Kiwi deer meat as Alaskan reindeer.

The Pump House, in Fairbanks, Alaska, has been fined US$50,000 ($69,500) for misleading its customers since 2013 about the origin of meat used in one of its entrees.

Diners thought they were munching on Alaskan reindeer.

Instead the award-winning restaurant - which describes its service as "Alaskan style" and offers "fine dining in an historic atmosphere" - was actually serving venison produced in New Zealand.

Last Saturday an apology from the restaurant ran in the local paper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, admitting they had been describing the meat as "similar to caribou and raised in Western Alaska where they are harvested by the native people.

"Instead, the Pumphouse served New Zealand red deer tenderloin."

The meat claim was found last August to be in violation of state and federal law by the Department of Environmental Conservation. It ordered the restaurant to correct its menu.

As well as the US$50,000 fine, owners of the Pump House also donated US$10,532 to three charities.

Pump House owner Vivian Bubbel refused to comment when contacted by the Weekend Herald.

"It's just radio silence,' she said.

"We're not talking about this at all under any circumstances."

Deer Industry NZ chief executive Dan Coup said although the US was an important market for Kiwi venison, he did not think deer farmers would be too worried about the case.

He said it was "sad" top New Zealand produce had been mislabelled, adding many top restaurants in the US were "proud to have grass-fed New Zealand venison on the menu".

"I really think this would be in your 'quirky anomaly' category," he said.

"Farm-raised venison is a pretty expensive, high-quality product so it would be unusual for it to be passed off as feral reindeer.

"This incident is possibly driven by the restaurant having a 'local' theme in its menu."

- NZ Herald

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