Six in ten small abattoirs face closure within five years

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

National Craft Butchers has called for schemes to attract new generations of abattoir workers
National Craft Butchers has called for schemes to attract new generations of abattoir workers

Related tags Meat & Seafood Training & recruitment Regulation

Most small abattoirs in the UK face closure within five years without Government help as they drown in red tape and grapple with a lack of skilled workers and lost revenue streams.

That's according to a survey of small and local abattoirs throughout England, Scotland and Wales conducted in in March to May 2021 by National Craft Butchers (NCB).

Of those responding to the survey, 59% said they expected to close within five years if action was not taken.

In addition, of the abattoirs surveyed, 70% of owners were aged over 51, 11% were over the age of 66 and 56% said they did not have a succession plan or someone to take over the business when they moved on.

Skills cliff edge

Respondents cited challenges including increases in one-size-fits-all regulation, loss of income through hides and skins and lack of education on the meat industry as a skilled and attractive career choice, leading to a 'cliff edge' in terms of skilled food business operators.

"All the respondents are offering private kill and cutting and packing services,"​ the NCB stated. "Without these, many small and rare breed farmers would be unable to get produce to their customers."

The local and small abattoirs are multi-species abattoirs, with most slaughtering cattle, pigs, lamb, sheep and horned cattle and almost one quarter slaughtering game. On average each abattoir provides four jobs for their local communities.

'Urgent regulatory reviews'

"We need the Government to acknowledge the important role of small abattoirs, to ensure urgent regulatory reviews by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Food Standards Agency are prioritised, to invest in the sector and safeguard it for the future,"​ stated the NCB.

"We believe this should include schemes to attract new generations into the abattoir sector and meat industry as a whole, but we also need to ensure small businesses are not regulated out of existence." 

NCB's members are meat industry experts with over 130 years of experience representing independent butchers, farm shops, small abattoirs, processing and wholesale butchery operations and key suppliers to the industry.

As founding members of the Campaign for Local Abattoirs and the Abattoir Sector Group, the organisation has been working on options to ensure the survival of local UK abattoirs.

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