A celebrity farmer has launched an urgent appeal to find grey squirrels for an unusual delicacy at a pop up restaurant.
Influencer Gareth Wyn Jones, who has a million followers on social media, needs the furry rodents to serve up squirrel burgers at the eatery at the Welsh Game Fair at the Faenol Estate, near Bangor, on the weekend of September 9 and 10.
Although he is a keen cook, this will be Gareth’s first time running a restaurant and he reckons the burgers will go down a treat.
Gareth, who farms near Llanfairfechan in the foothills of the Carneddau Range, overlooking Anglesey, said: “Grey squirrels are not native to this country. They were introduced from America and they have led to the decline of our own red squirrel population.
“Squirrel meat is like any other wild food, eating them is like foraging for anything else.
“We have to remember they are a pest. On the farm if I have too many rats, crows or whatever, I have to deal with them. What’s the difference with squirrels? Their meat is a by-product so why waste it? It’s a fantastic wild food.
“All I need now is an alternative butcher to supply the grey squirrels and it’ll be ready, steady, cook.”
Squirrels are popular quarry in the USA where most states classify them as game animals that can be killed for food consumption.
They are sometimes known as limb chickens and experts consider the best time to eat them is in the autumn when they have been feeding on a diet of nuts and fruit.
Gareth, a regular face on television who has nearly 700,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, is a partner in a business which farms 2,000 acres.
His family have been custodians of the land at Ty’n Llwyfan above Llanfairfechan, in Conwy, for 375 years and they now keep 4,000 sheep and 300 cattle.
He’s passionate about farming and about cooking too and there will be more than just squirrels on the menu at the Faenol Estate in September with an asado – an Argentine-style barbecue – planned using lamb from the farm.
Gareth said: “I’m going to be the face of the food there this year – I was an ambassador last year for the first Welsh Game Fair – and cooking is something I love.
“As kids we used to collect mushrooms and bring them home and then get some eggs and cook them.
“I believe the best way to change things is to eat small and local, food that’s been produced here and game is part of that.
“It’s important that we know where our food has come from because there is a disconnect between people who live in the cities which is now 84 per cent of the population and those in the country because people in the cities don’t understand how food is produced.
“Everything produced by a farmer has a cost, emotional, physical and mental as well as financial and I get to see every single season and you can’t help but enjoy that and I want to get that over to people at the Welsh Game Fair.”
The show, organised in association with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, will cover everything from angling and axemen to conservation, shooting and wildlife, all on Faenol’s magnificent 500 acres overlooking the Menai Straits.
James Gower, chief executive of Stable Events which organises the Welsh Game Fair, alongside The Game Fair and the Scottish Game Fair, said: “We were delighted with the response to the first Welsh Game Fair and it’s going to be even better this time.
“Our aim is to celebrate everything that is best about the countryside and rural pursuits, including the wider benefits of conservation and field sports.
“We’ll have gundogs, clay shooting, archery, fishing, food and falconry – not to mention the amazing shopping at the wide range of stalls.
“Over the two days we have a jam-packed itinerary of displays, demonstrations, have-a-go attractions and exhibitors.
“The pop up restaurant will provide a real showcase for the finest fare the countryside has to offer.
“I can’t think of a better mine host than Gareth Wyn Jones who is passionate about promoting proper local produce – and has great likeability.
“The idea of putting squirrel burgers on the menu is inspired because it means we can find a good use for a real rural pest and tantalise people’s tastebuds at the same time.”
For more on the Welsh Game Fair go to https://www.welshgamefair.org/