This trend of closures doesn’t appear to be changing with recent Plimsoll Analysis showing that 25 abattoirs are in danger of closure, with a further 12 under caution. More than a third of abattoir businesses assessed were also found to be making a loss.
In an effort to turn the tide on small abattoir closures, 34 organisations have written to Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove, calling on him to take urgent action to save the sector.
The group includes the RSPB, National Trust, RSPCA, Scottish Crofting Federation, the Women’s Institute and the National Sheep Association. In the letter they point out that the existence of a network of smaller abattoirs enabling thousands of family farmers to supply meat and other livestock products to a growing number of customers, either directly or via retail and catering outlets, represents a huge national asset.
John Mettrick, chairman of National Craft Butchers and owner of a small abattoir in Derbyshire, said, “We have hit a perfect storm of problems: increased costs, rock bottom prices for hides and skins, some gold-plated regulations, and excessive paperwork, much of it involving unnecessary duplication.”
A recent report from the Sustainable Food Trust examined the reasons behind the closure of small abattoirs and identified several trends. It found that the rise of multiple retailing has led to larger abattoirs being built which have taken custom away from the smaller ones. Growing regulation was also deemed to be a major factor in the closure trend which can be more onerous for small businesses than larger ones.
Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said British food would lose out if smaller abattoirs were no more. “The sale of locally-produced meat helps to keep many family farmers in business and has huge benefits for consumers and the environment. For the first time in my farming lifetime, Defra is genuinely striving to develop a more sustainable food system with additional focus on animal welfare. But that could come unstuck if we lose more local abattoirs. Without local slaughtering there will be no traceable local meat, it’s as simple as that.”