A Parliamentary group has called on the Government to develop a ‘UK Strategy for Abattoirs’ in order to stem the tide of small slaughterhouse closures.
There were 30,000 registered abattoirs in the 1930s, down to just under 250 today, of which 62 are classed as small.
The number of butcher shops has also dropped from 22,000 in the early 1990s to roughly 6,000 in 2020, despite the massive increase in the UK population over this time.
Now the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare has published a landmark report calling for an abattoir strategy, which would be put together using centralised data on throughput, distribution and welfare outcomes.
The document also recommends emergency financial support be offered to struggling small abattoirs with a business strategy and for slaughterhouses to be able to benefit from public money under post-Brexit schemes as they are key to the delivery of public goods.
Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, welcomed the report.
He said: “Our food and farming systems are facing multiple challenges, with an Agriculture Bill which fails to safeguard UK standards and a future subsidy system which 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 which 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.
“Small abattoirs are an essential part of the local food and farming infrastructure which makes this possible.”
Other recommendations in the report include boosting apprenticeships in the areas of butchery and local meat supply, providing guidance and support to small abattoirs to help them expand their offer and respond to changing market demands and establishing a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry into the waste collection market, as slaughterhouses lose income on hides and skins.