This content was prepared by BurgerFuel and is being published by NZME as advertorial.
A taste of the wild can now help protect the wild. A consciously crafted new burger from BurgerFuel, Wild Heart, is providing Kiwis with that taste of the wild, using cuts of wild venison to raise awareness of the challenge of food waste.
That venison comes from Fiordland National Park and the annual wapiti deer cull – and is meat that would otherwise have gone to waste.
In 1993, volunteer group the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation (FWF), in partnership with the Department of Conservation, was established. Their purpose was to manage the wapiti, ensuring a healthy and high-quality herd which helps preserve the flora and fauna in one of the country's most renowned national parks.
The wapiti venison patty in Wild Heart comes from the annual cull that helps to manage the herd. Some 1000 to 1400 wapiti are hunted to protect ecosystems relied on by many native birds, such as whio, kiwi, weka, kea and kaka.
The sale of this limited-edition burger is not just about highlighting food waste. It has another purpose: a small contribution in the price of the burger will go towards raising $30,000 to help reduce stoat and possums, which prey on many New Zealand species.
BurgerFuel has partnered with a new organisation called WITHWILD, who rescue wild ingredients, identifying a valuable food resource. Every WITHWILD product has a "give back to the wild" element. They've also made Fiordland wapiti venison available via selected butchers and high-end restaurants.
Nikki Soons, BurgerFuel's New Zealand head of brand and marketing, says the company hadn't produced a venison burger since 2016: "But we thought Fiordland Wapiti would be an amazing product and our menu development team has been working for the last eight months to create a burger that not only tastes great, but will have a positive impact as well."
Soons says the Wild Heart burger is the first of what the company hopes will be an increasing use of rescued food products: "With climate change, people are more conscious where they spend their money. We know this is a drop in the bucket, but the intention is to provoke discussion and challenge ideas about premium ingredients which would otherwise be discarded."
BurgerFuel has also partnered with Citizen Collective to add other rescued elements to Wild Heart. Since launching in 2020, Citizen Collective has been seeking to reduce food waste, using surplus or unsold food and upcycling it.
Included in the burger are 300kg of "wonky" Pukekohe carrots, rejected at the packaging stage. Plus, every burger has a delicious rescued Central Otago cherry sauce by Citizen, using blemished Central Otago cherries that would have otherwise gone to waste. BurgerFuel and Citizen have also collaborated to produce a new Rescued Cherry Cola. When paired with the burger, it rescues an estimated 29 cherries.
Soons describes the venison patty as being "super tasty and super tender with the delicious, but not over-powering, flavour profile of the wild venison, combined with truffle mascarpone and Citizen Rescued cherry sauce making a perfect match."
BurgerFuel is already working on other rescued menu items. It's also well on the way towards long-term sustainability goals with circular waste disposal planned for its stores, diverting as much waste from landfill as possible, sustainable packaging, and planning to ensure all ingredients are made locally.
A webpage, burgerfuel.com/wildheart, has been set up giving information on where the $30,000 it hopes to raise for FWF will go: funding the new stoat trapping line of 55 traps. The traps will all bear the BurgerFuel brand and be placed in Fiordland's Nitz Valley to control the pests.
The location of the traps and the updated tally of how many stoats have been killed will be updated on the webpage. Some money raised will also go towards tracking the impact of pests on the ecosystem through installing digital cameras, possum control and fauna surveys.
• The Wild Heart burger will be available from Wednesday July 13 until Monday, September 5 at BurgerFuel's 59 stores or until the 30,000 which will be produced run out.