Velvet Deer Antler Quality and Animal Welfare

By Lisa Wells, RN

Deer Antler Velvet

Proper Quality, Processing, and Animal Welfare

There is significant credible research evidence to support the claims that velvet deer antler (VDA), also known as deer antler velvet, can provide numerous benefits including increased vitality, improved cardiovascular health, mood enhancement, anti-aging benefits, and that it is a very effective strength and training aid.2

However, such benefits appear dependent upon the quality and type of antler used as well as the methods employed during processing.

Not All Velvet Antler is the Same Quality

Each part of the antler contains different compounds with a variety of properties. However, many manufacturers only use the lower calcified portions of the antler, which are considerably cheaper to purchase than the upper sections, but also contain significantly less cartilaginous tissue. VDA processed in whole form appears to provide the widest selection of chemical compounds associated with the benefits claimed in the research cited.5

Several studies indicate that heating can reduce or destroy the beneficial properties of velvet antler. Therefore, it is vital to ensure the product is not heated during processing. However, many manufacturers of low-grade products burn the velvet portion of the antler off before processing, because it's less labor-intensive than non-heat-producing methods. Some widely-used grinding methods may also produce heat, reducing the effectiveness of the product.

Because of its dried properties, it is not prone to contaminates such as yeast, molds, chloroforms, E. coli and salmonella. However, standards outlined by the North American Elk Breeders Association, and practiced by premium processors, recommend laboratory testing to ensure sanitation of the product.

Today the antler velvet trade remains strong in Asia, with China producing nearly 100 tons of dried velvet antler annually. It is also an important crop in Russia with significant exports to Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.

However, New Zealand antler velvet is prized throughout Asia because it is considered by many to be more potent than the more commonly available deer antler.5

Deer Welfare

Deer welfareMale deer naturally shed their antlers every year and they grow a new set. Deer in the wild will rub their new antlers on trees to remove the velvet and toughen up their new antlers.

Velvet deer antler products available to people in Western societies are generally sourced from deer that are cared for on farms according to strictly controlled quality assurance guidelines that ensure all requirements for animal welfare and husbandry are maintained at acceptable standards.1

The process of harvesting deer velvet takes place on these regulated farms using correct handling and velvet removal techniques. The velvet is removed from male deer each year by registered veterinary surgeons or people accredited by the National Velvet Accreditation Scheme using proper anesthesia to prevent pain or stress.1

Within hours after the procedure the deer are back grazing on the open pasture lands.

Studies have been done by animal behaviorists to ensure the process does not cause injury, pain or stress to the deer.

The NVAS Ensures Consumers and the Community That:

Acceptable standards of animal welfare are maintained
The Deer Industry QA program's product trace ability requirements are supported
Occupational health & safety requirements are maintained
QA, residue and animal welfare expectations of international and domestic communities and clients are maintained
As velvet is a health substance it is handled and stored in a hygienic manner.

Learn About the Many Benefits of Velvet Deer Antler

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1. Center, MD, Stephen A, Velvet Deer Antler, Nature's Anti-Aging Solution, Woodland Publishing, 2005.

2. Kamen, Betty, The Remarkable Healing Powers of Velvet Antler, Nutrition Encounter, 1999.

3. Zhigang Sui, Lihua Zhang, Yushu Huo, Yukui Zhang, Bioactive components of velvet antlers and their pharmacological properties, Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, Volume 87, 2014, Pages 229-240, ISSN 0731-7085, doi: 10.1016/j.jpba.2013.07.044

4. Church, J, Velvet Antler: Historical Medical Use, Performance Enhancing Effects and Pharmacology, Elk Tech Int'l, 1998.

5. Suttie, J M, et al, The New Zealand Velvet Antler Industry; Background and Research Finding, International Symposium on Cervi Parvum Cornu, The Korean Society of Pharmacognosy, Seoul, Korea, 1994.