The Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) has claimed the UK’s network of small local abattoirs was near collapse
Farmers selling meat direct to the public have faced the biggest challenges from local abattoir closures and the amount of travel could make this premium market ‘unviable’.
A new report from the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) has claimed the UK’s network of small, local abattoirs was ‘near collapse’ and called on the Government to make a clear statement that it recognises the ‘vital importance’ of smaller abattoirs.
And it was not just hitting those based around urban areas where there was demand for local meat, but had caused real problems for people in areas such as the Scottish highlands, according to National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker.
“For some of the Scottish Islands, their sales might be down in London with mail order demand,” he said.
In the UK, the number of red meat abattoirs has fallen to 249, from 320 in 2007 and almost 1,900 in 1970.
And some abattoirs were not appropriate for farmers, with some unwilling to do private kill, some slaughtering animals without pre-stunning for the halal market and others not certified for organic animals.
New rules and regulations and the burden of paperwork have also hit smaller abattoirs harder, with much drawn up with larger abattoirs in mind.
SFT policy director Richard Young said on his organic farm, he had changed abattoirs nine times in the last 30 years in order to keep his farm shop supplied with meat from its own animals.
“I now have to take our animals almost 40 miles to get them slaughtered and it costs a great deal to get the carcases delivered back to our shop.”
Mr Stocker said given the challenges to the sheep sector, it was vital to build support in the local market.
“Such a lot of this new generation is interested in developing local and more direct sales. It is becoming an important part of their marketing strategy,” he said.
“It is a high end, premium market and gives that connection with the public.”
SFT said the ‘ideal’ for many producer-retailers would be a mobile abattoir which came to them as was currently seen within the rest of Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the US.
Mr Stocker said he would support them looking in more detail at whether mobile abattoirs was a feasible option with the need for docking on farm alongside concrete areas, a good electricity connection and water.
“The concept is good. You just need more feasibility studies.”