I read this week about a company that have been prosecuted for misrepresenting the quality of their deer velvet product by using carob powder as a filler. I am beyond disappointed that for the sake of a few dollars, the actions of one company can tarnish the reputation for all of us in the industry and indeed New Zealand.
This highlights the need to get to know your supplier and learn where your product is coming from, because for the consumer, one deer velvet product can look much like the next. What are the right questions to ask when comparing products and what answers should you expect if you are to have confidence in the integrity of the producer?
Here are my top priorities.
Is the whole antler included? And what grade/s?
Production costs can be reduced by varying the quality of the raw product. The most potent and extremely valuable part of the velvet antler, (the tips) may be excluded from the capsules and sold separately. Alternatively cost can be reduced by using cheaper grades of velvet such as damaged grades. Our preference is premium Super A and A grade velvet, ensuring the whole antler is included and harvested at approximately 60 days of growth, which is the optimal time for maximum health benefits.
Overgrown velvet weighs heavier and is cheaper per kg, so offers another easy option to produce a cheaper product. Technically it’s still whole antler, with all points included, but the ratio of tips to antler is much less, and the points are no longer full of the bio active ingredients. This end product may look the same, and have an attractive price tag, but it will not be nearly as effective.
Is capsule weight quoted as dried weight, or unprocessed weight?
Unprocessed raw product is around 3.5 times the dried weight. I have noticed a trend in recent years towards quoting unprocessed weight as capsule weight, making it appear you are getting a lot more velvet than you actually are. Be sure to ask this question, and add up how much velvet you are actually getting in a bottle. eg. Canes Deer Velvet contains 80 x 500mg of dried product = 40 gm total x 3.5 would be 140 grams of raw product. If we quoted our capsules in this way our 500 mg capsule would be equivalent to a 1750 mg capsule.
Is it freeze dried or traditionally dried using heat?
While both have their advantages, it is widely acknowledged that freeze drying maintains the bioactive ingredients in their most active form. It is on my ‘to do’ list to look closer into this subject and possible undertake some research. I will keep you posted.
Is the hair removed prior to processing?
Velvet antler gets its name because it feels like velvet on the outside due to its covering of fine hair. In fact this is something we don’t want in our capsules. It is a challenging and labour intensive task to remove the hair prior to processing, and not all companies do so. Ask the question!
Where is the velvet produced?
Consider the farm practices, the diet of the deer, handling facilities, and cold chain of raw product. In New Zealand it is now possible to trace each stick of velvet back to the farm it came from. In our case its easy, as all our product is from our own farm. If buying raw product at a bulk market it will likely be coming from many different producers.
Where is it processed?
For New Zealand processors, ensure they operate under the NZ Govt approved Risk Management Programme (RMP) and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification where applicable. These processors comply with strict regulations and undergo regular audits.
Are fillers used?
If Velvet is dried and processed properly there should be no need to add any fillers to manage moisture content. If the product has fillers, it begs the question why? I am aware of cases where dried blood, or carob powder are added to the product. Read the list of ingredients and be sure of what you are buying.
I hope that is helpful for you in assessing quality of velvet supplements. Typically, you will get what you pay for, but if you have any specific questions, or want to explore the differences between Canes and any other, I would be happy to help you with an honest comparison. Just contact me and I will be in touch.