Monday, August 20, 2018

Crisis affecting small abattoirs prompts fears for local meat

May 31, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

The UK is in serious danger of losing its local, traceable meat supplies, independent abattoir operators have warned.

More than one third of small abattoirs have closed in the past decade, according to the Campaign for Local Abattoirs (CFLA) – a recently formed group of organisations and individuals concerned about the closure of small slaughterhouses.

A further 10% of small abattoirs have already closed this year – or are about to close, said the association in its response to the government’s Health and Harmony consultation on the future of agricultural policy after the UK leaves the European Union.

Smaller abattoirs are essential for local meat marketing because only they are able to slaughter animals for farmers and let them have meat and offal back for sale to their customers, who can be assured that they are buying local, traceable meat, it said.

Critical level

Campaign coordinator Bob Kennard, a policy advisor for the  Sustainable Food Trust, said: “We have now reached a critical level, with several blackspots around the country where smaller abattoirs simply do not exist.

“As more and more small abattoirs close, the distances to the nearest suitable slaughterhouse increase, until it is no longer financially viable for farmers, and the farm shops, farmers markets, local butchers and mail order meat businesses they supply are also forced to close.”

The association argues that the benefits of smaller local abattoirs go way beyond simply slaughtering farm animals. As well as processing livestock, it says independent slaughterhouses also act as a catalyst for new local businesses to develop.

Further benefits include higher animal welfare and lower emissions due to shorter journey times; greater local employment; and increased economic benefits from keeping the profits of livestock production and butchery within local communities.

Complex crisis

The reasons for this crisis are complex, but include strong downward pressure on profitability from high volume abattoirs supplying supermarkets, increased costs of waste disposal, excessive regulation. and low prices paid to small abattoirs for hides and skins.

The association is calling on Defra to publicly recognise the vital importance of smaller abattoirs and establish an urgent in-depth inquiry to understand the multiple problems facing the sector and help the industry to come up with practical solutions.

These solutions could include mobile abattoirs which enable on-farm slaughter, especially in areas where smaller abattoirs no longer exist. The association also recommends an immediate cash injection to smaller abattoirs – matching a similar commitment by the Welsh Government.

This would give a breathing space for sustainable, longer-term solutions to be developed across the UK, through the proposed in-depth official inquiry, it says.

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