APAWG launched an inquiry after concerns were raised that large numbers of small abattoirs had closed, taking away slaughter options for small-scale farmers.
The report, entitled The Future for Small Abattoirs in the UK, said that as small abattoirs contributed to the public goods of animal welfare and environmental benefits, they should be recognised and eligible for capital payments in any future agricultural support framework.
The report added that the Government should ensure public bodies and, in particular, economic partnerships or forums viewed small abattoirs as essential infrastructure, supporting the rural economy
It added that funding waste disposal or reuse technology within small abattoirs should be included in the Government’s criteria for capital payments under environmental schemes and integrated with initiatives such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
“Small abattoirs support local production of food, benefiting animal welfare with shorter journeys and enabling the return of the product to the farmer, providing food provenance, consumer choice and the opportunity to add value,” said Lord Trees, co-chairman of APAWG.
“This supports the Government’s agenda to end long-distance transport for animals, tackle climate change, and help livestock farmers, especially in upland areas, to be economically self-sustaining.”
In April, Colin Sullivan, chief operating officer and COVID-19 incident director at the Food Standards Agency acknowledged that coronavirus had hit abattoir operations. However, it is well known that abattoirs, particularly smaller sites, have been struggling for some time.
Meat trade groups have welcomed the new report.
National Craft Butchers (NCB) policy director William Lloyd Williams said: “The report recognises the added value and benefits small abattoirs provide for producers, rural communities, national and local supply chains and animal welfare – while strengthening the case for Government financial support for a sector essential to provide consumers with both choice and future food security.”
The Sustainable Food Trust and the Campaign for Local Abattoirs also strongly welcomed the report.
Patrick Holden, CEO of the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “Our food and farming systems are facing multiple challenges, with an Agriculture Bill that fails to safeguard UK standards and a future subsidy system that could see the demise of the family farm if action is not taken.
“More than ever we need a well-distributed network of small abattoirs that offer ‘private kill’ services for farmers who wish to add value by marketing and selling their meat direct to consumers. The public has clearly shown demand for local, traceable food, produced to a very high standard, while COVID-19 has taught us that a resilient local food supply is paramount for UK food security.
Meanwhile, Phil Stocker, CEO of the National Sheep Association, said: “This is a crucial report that comes at a time when big decisions are being made with regard to food and farming policy. COVID-19 has shown that localised meat supply chains, retailing through farm shops, butchers’ [shops] and home deliveries, provide resilience, choice and service to consumers, while giving the chance to add value, retain margins and create a close relationship with the public, for producers.”