Pāmu deer milk powder won't be on supermarket shelves but the high-priced product has chefs excited.
Pāmu (formerly Landcorp) supplies deer milk powder to restaurants in Auckland and Wellington and was awarded the Grassroots Innovation prize at Fieldays this week.
Chief executive Steve Carden said deer milk was the sort of innovation the agriculture sector needed to invest in to make sure it remained competitive.
"As an industry, agriculture needs to be changing and evolving what we produce in response to consumer demand. Pāmu deer milk is one of the ways that Pāmu is investing in innovation, with like-minded partners, to take the milk industry forward," he said.
The milk comes from a herd of 80 red deer, milked twice a day from November to March on a farm near Gore.
The hinds produce 5000 to 6000 litres of milk each season, which is sent to Massey University's food hub for drying.
Pāmu head of communications Simon King said it was too early to assess what price deer milk would sell for, given the early phase of development.
"We are currently covering the costs of sale to the food service sector in New Zealand, and assessing opportunities internationally," he said.
"We expect Pāmu deer milk to fetch a premium, given its unique qualities."
A 1kg bag of Anchor milk powder sells for around $15 and produces 8L of milk. Sheep milk powder costs $90 to $100 a kilogram, which makes 6l.
The high fat, high protein deer milk proved popular with chefs at a tasting in Auckland on Monday.
Des Harris, of The Hunting Lodge, said recipe ideas started flowing immediately after tasting and he was considering adding a wild duck egg and deer milk crème brulee to his menu.
"The flavours are so rich and really appeal to chefs," he said.
"It's important for us to source local New Zealand produce and knowing this type of food innovation is happening in New Zealand is exciting,"
Chef Geoff Scott compared the milk's mouthfeel with extra silky cream and said it was rare for chefs to work with a completely new product.
"This is the sort of innovation the food industry is looking for, and which builds new creations and food movements. Pāmu deer milk is definitely in that category," Scott said.
While the feedback from chefs had been positive, the challenge would be making the product commercially viable, Carden said.
"We believe we are on the cusp of something very exciting," he said.
Pāmu was looking at other uses for its deer milk product, which could include cosmetics.
"We are seeing a unique product like Pāmu deer milk, turned into the sort of potentially high value, niche export product that is the 'holy grail 'for the primary sector," Carden said.
"It provides an earnings multiplier way above selling the product at the farm gate."