An Abattoir Sector Group (ASG) has been set up to help develop a thriving network of local abattoirs across the UK.
The group was formed following a recommendation in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare’s (AGPAW) report, The Future for Small Abattoirs in the UK.
The intention is to work with Governments across the UK as they formulate new policies, ensuring they are aware of the importance of small abattoirs in maintaining high animal welfare standards, supporting sustainable farming and meeting the rising demand for local meat.
The ASG will also seek access to funding and share best practice to help small abattoirs play a vital role in local food production.
Members of the ASG steering group include Fir Farm’s Lady Parker, who works with the Sustainable Food Trust and is in the process of getting a mobile abattoir up and running; Christopher Price, chief executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust; John Mettrick from National Craft Butchers; Professor Tim Morris from the Animal Health and Welfare Board England and small abattoir operators based in England, Scotland and Wales.
Dr Simon Doherty, former president of the British Veterinary Association and senior lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, is the chairman, with small abattoir owner John Mettrick as vice chairman.
Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, welcomed the establishment of the group.
He said: “Without a UK-wide network of small abattoirs, it will be impossible for farmers to deliver local, welfare-friendly meat with minimum distances to slaughter, which millions of people are now demanding.”
Smaller abattoirs have been shutting fast in recent years, with a third having been lost in the past decade alone.
Issues such as paperwork, regulation, increased running costs and reduced income from hides and skins have led to many closures.
But the sector recorded a 10 per cent increase in production this year as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, proving how critical small abattoirs are to the resilience of the food supply chain.
Dr Doherty said: “ASG will be working to ensure smaller abattoirs are part of the infrastructure to support local food systems and rural economies, promoting the reduction of bureaucracy and simplification of paperwork and working to improve co-ordination across Government departments.”
Mr Mettrick pointed out small abattoirs support the development of farm businesses through the provision of private kill and the easy return of livestock products to farmers and collaborators to add value.