Risks, restrictions, and rules for wild food

Hunting and gathering wild food from our land, rivers, lakes and surrounding ocean is a traditional part of New Zealand culture. Learn about the risks, restrictions and rules of wild food, and food safety.

Types of wild food

Wild food is food you hunt and gather. Examples are fish and shellfish, plants like ferns and pūhā (watercress), and game animals. 

Wild game includes any wild animal or bird you can hunt, for example:

  • pig, deer, and goats
  • tahr and chamois
  • duck, pheasant and quail
  • Canada geese
  • rabbits.

Risks of eating wild foods or recreational catch

Wild food you hunt or gather for you or your immediate family's consumption is also known as 'recreational catch'. Recreational catch is classed as non-commercial.

MPI has systems to monitor commercial food operations, but no assurances can be given about whether meat from wild animals is fit to eat. If you eat recreationally caught wild food you do so at your own risk.  

Don't sell your recreational catch

You can't sell recreationally hunted meat under any circumstances. All commercially traded meat (including commercially hunted wild game meat) undergoes thorough procurement, hygiene and processing standards and controls before it reaches the consumer. Recreationally collected meat doesn't go through these processes.

If your catch is for human or animal consumption and you trade it, then it is classed as commercial. Commercial trade includes:

  • bartering
  • supplying as part of a contract
  • supplying as part of a charge for another product or service
  • using for advertising purposes, as a prize or for fundraising.

Hunters must be certified if supplying wild animal meat

Meat from wild animals can only be traded (bought and sold) if the hunter supplying the meat to the processor is certified. The processor dressing the wild animal must also be certified by MPI. This ensures that procurement, hygiene and processing of hunted animal products is controlled and monitored before the product reaches the consumer.

Some parts of a wild animal can be bought or sold

You can trade the parts of your recreational catch that are not for human or animal consumption – for example hides, skins, horns or antlers. Waste material like animal fat and carcases can be sold or disposed of to a renderer.

Sale of recreationally caught fish is illegal

It is illegal to sell recreationally caught fish. There is only one exception – whitebait.

Laws for butchering and serving your catch 

There are laws about what you can and can't do when butchering and serving your recreational catch. 

What you can do

  • You can cook and serve your recreational catch to your family and household and your hunting or fishing party.
  • A restaurant may prepare and cook the fish or wild game you have caught, and serve it to you and your hunting or fishing party.
  • You can serve recreational catch meat on a marae for traditional activities within the iwi or hapu. 
  • You can have your recreational catch killed or butchered professionally by a listed homekill or recreational catch service provider.

What you can't do

  • You can't serve recreational catch meat or fish to paying customers, (for example to customers at bed and breakfasts or lodges), or barter, raffle or donate it for use as a prize or as a fundraiser.
  • Schools, universities, hospitals or prisons can't use recreational catch meat or fish. 
  • If you're running a commercial operation on a marae, you can't use recreational catch – you must use commercially processed meat or fish.
  • You can't sell recreational catch at wild food festivals, fundraisers and the like. If wild game or fish are sold at such events, they must be obtained from the regulated system. 

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