Why is Deer Antler Velvet So Expensive?
When consumers begin their search for deer antler velvet products, they often get sticker shock. Admittedly, it is a high priced supplement. But what makes it cost so much?
In this article we will examine the reasons why deer antler velvet is so expensive.
Ultimately, it comes down to supply and demand.
Deer Antler Velvet Global Production
Deer antler velvet has a relatively low annual supply.
New Zealand produces about 450 tons of deer antler velvet yearly; China, about 400 tons; Russia, 80 tons, and the United States and Canada, about 20 tons each. This amounts to less than 1,000 tons per year.
While this might seem like a lot, it is paltry compared with popular herbs like ginseng, which has a worldwide production of more than 80,000 tons per year. Turmeric, another common herbal supplement, has an annual global production of 500,000 tons.
Deer Antler Velvet Growth and Harvesting
The main reason that deer antler velvet production is small is due to the nature of antler growth itself. Sexually mature male deer grow antlers ahead of the mating season, which happens only once per year.
Deer antler velvet is the only organized mammalian tissue that regrows completely, and it does so every year.
Red deer begin growing antlers at 10 months old. Each year, the antlers will elongate and thicken. Stags generally produce their largest antlers from five to seven years of age. From there, velvet production usually stays constant before declining from nine to ten years of age. In captivity, red deer live 20 years (in the wild, 10-13 years).
Generally, deer antler velvet is ready for harvesting between 55 to 65 days from the start of the antler growth. This time period varies by the individual deer, so farmers must observe their herds carefully to determine the best time. This is very important because collecting the velvet too soon means less yield per harvest, which is detrimental to the farmer. However, collecting the velvet too late means less nutrient value within the antlers, which is detrimental to the user.
When deer antler velvet is cut midway through its growth cycle, the deer will regrow another set of antlers. Therefore, a deer can typically generate two sets of deer antler velvet each year. In New Zealand, the first harvest occurs during October/November and regrowth is harvested in January/ February. The second cut typically has a lower market value than the first cut.
New Zealand Deer Farming
The deer industry in New Zealand is a big business. There are an estimated one million deer livestock in the country. The large-scale commercial farming of deer began in New Zealand in the 1970s. To this day, New Zealand remains the world's largest and most advanced deer farming industry. The established systems have become the standard for raising deer livestock around the world.
New Zealand deer farmers are required to adhere to strict rules pertaining to the welfare of the animal and its husbandry. These regulations are set and enforced by the New Zealand government. Therefore, the cost of maintaining a deer herd in New Zealand is higher than other places, which may not have the same standards.
Deer Antler Velvet Demand
There has been a growing demand for natural health products including deer antler velvet.
The largest market for deer antler velvet is China, followed by South Korea. This should come as no surprise given deer antler velvet’s use in Eastern Medicine. It is also sought in Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan. However, deer antler velvet has slowly gained acceptance in other parts of the world, starting with Russia in the 1990’s. Then, in 2013, deer antler velvet was put into the spotlight in the USA after rumors spread that NLF star Ray Lewis used the extract to recover quickly from an injury.
Currently, the demand for deer antler velvet can be broadly categorized into two groups. The first being traditional users who take deer antler velvet for general health or therapeutic reasons and the second being those who take it for athletic performance enhancing benefits.
The demand for deer antler velvet products far exceeds the available supply each year.
Deer Antler Velvet Raw Material Pricing
At the time of the writing of this article, the farmgate price (price from farmer) for fresh deer velvet is around $100/kg and an a steady upward trend. Note that approximately 2/3 of the weight of fresh deer antler velvet is comprised of water, which will be removed in the drying process. In other words, the dry matter content of fresh deer velvet is 30-35% of its pre-drying weight.
Once the drying and further processing is done, the average price for lowest value deer antler velvet powder (lower segment and base) is around $300/kg, while the average price for “whole stick” (entire antler, all segments) antler velvet powder is $450/kg.
By looking at these raw material costs, it is clear why deer antler velvet supplements are expensive.
If you see deer antler products with low prices, that is a glaring red flag that the products are very low quality or useless.
Why? It means there cannot be any substantive amount of deer antler velvet in the product. There is no way to avoid the high price of the raw material. Most likely, cheap deer antler velvet products only have a trace of deer antler velvet in it or use antler that has calcified which will provide little to no benefits.
Do not buy low priced deer antler velvet, ever.
Antler Farms® Deer Antler Velvet Prices
There are good reasons why our deer antler velvet products cost more than competing products.
- New Zealand deer farms have a higher, costlier standard of care and handling of animals than other countries (i.e., China, Korea, Russia, United States, Canada).
- We are very selective in the deer we farm. 80-90% of the red deer population in New Zealand would not meet our standards. Because of our requirements, we could not and would not purchase our velvet from a collective like most companies. We know exactly where our deer velvet came from - our farms.
- Our techniques are more labor intensive, more time consuming and more expensive than conventional methods. We could make cheaper products, but we choose not to. We produce the world's best deer antler velvet.
- We do not use the cheap, ineffective base and bottom segments in our antler velvet capsules (most competitors do). Our capsules are 500 mg (most competitor capsules are 250 mg). Our bottles have 180 capsules (most competitor bottles have 60 capsules). On a dollars per gram basis, our product is very competitively priced.
- Our deer antler velvet extract has a 75:1 extract ratio, an extremely high concentration. We use 75 parts fresh, top grade, whole stick deer antler velvet to make just 1 part deer antler velvet extract. The cost of raw materials is reflected in the price of our product. Most competitors sell deer antler spray with far lower ratios. Beware of companies that claim high extract ratios with no proof of growth factor content (see next point).
- Our deer antler velvet extracts contain IGF-1 and the full growth factor matrix. The contents are tested and verified. Most other companies do not have the technological capability to process their extracts and retain deer antler velvet's active growth factors. Always check the label on deer antler velvet extracts for the growth factor content. If it’s missing from the label, it’s probably missing inside the bottle too.
- Our deer antler velvet extracts use liposomes for superior bioavailability and absorption. Liposomes are microscopic vesicles that encapsulate and transport active ingredients in to locations in the body where they are most efficiently absorbed. Most other companies do not have liposomal delivery and the extract is destroyed by stomach acid before absorption.
- Our deer antler velvet is 100% pure, with no fillers or additives. Competitors put cheap ingredients into their products and claim they "boost" their product. The truth is the added ingredients decreases their cost and makes their products more ineffective.
Read more about deer antler velvet.