Only 56 red meat abattoirs remain in the UK following the closure of seven last year, with one third having closed between 2007 and 2017.
Local abattoirs must be recognised as a public good if they are to survive the current economic climate, Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) delegates were told.
Chairing the session on Thursday (January 3), Lady Parker of Fir Farm, Gloucestershire, said if unaided, small red meat abattoirs would continue their downward spiral after seven sites closed in 2018.
One third of all local abattoirs also closed between 2007 and 2017.
Lady Parker said: “They will only have a sustainable future if it is recognised that they provide a vitally important service, and they receive financial support to subsidise some of the excessive costs they currently face, based on the concept of public support for the public good they provide.”
Lady Parker’s comments followed figures announced by the Campaign for Local Abattoirs which found none of the 26 local abattoirs surveyed considered their profitability to be good – with half instead describing it as poor – and more than 10 per cent suggesting they were making a loss.
Lead of the campaign Bob Kennard said it was due in part to a combination of high running costs and a collapse in the value of products that had previously provided income, such as hides and skins.
Small abattoir owner and president of National Craft Butchers John Mettrick said: “Recently we slaughtered 89 lambs but only received 10 pence each for their skins, in addition to being charged £1 each for 12 that were damaged.
“This results in us actually making a loss for something that in my father’s day would have generated about £500 in profit.”