Mobile abattoirs may help farms hit by the rapid loss of small abattoirs over the last few years.
There are now fewer than 100 small abattoirs, those slaughtering fewer than 1,000 animals a year, according to the Sustainable Food Trust, with four closing in 2019 and another six believed to be under threat.
Higher costs, more regulation and the very low hide and skin prices have driven slaughterhouse closures.
One region affected by abattoir closure is the Cotswolds.
That prompted Paddy Hoare of Fir Farm, Lower Swell, Gloucestershire, to develop a mobile abattoir.
The farm has a mission to be as sustainable as possible and rears Hereford cattle, Wiltshire Horn sheep and Saddleback pigs, selling its meat locally and online.
He said: “We have been working closely with the Food Standards Agency to ensure any system is fully compliant with all welfare, waste and safety regulations.
“They have been supportive and constructive, recognising the need for a mobile service.”
Mr Hoare is working on the project with Simon Cutter, who has a livestock farm and butchery in Ross-on-Wye, as well as a trailer manufacturer and an abattoir equipment supplier.
The plan is to have a mobile unit consisting of slaughter and cutting facilities to deal with seven cattle or 21 sheep a week.
“The unit will go to certified farms in a 30-mile radius of our farm near Cirencester where two approved staff would slaughter and butcher the animals under the scrutiny of an official Defra vet,” said Mr Hoare.
He added the mobile unit would not compete with small abattoirs, but provide an essential service for farmers who have lost their local facilities.
“We will happily share our experiences with others thinking of a similar service in other parts of the country once we are up and running.”
Static small mobile slaughterhouses
Easily moveable small slaughterhouses are already available.
Newark-based Abachem Engineering said it could supply systems where five cattle, 30 sheep or pigs or 200 chickens could be slaughtered a day.
A company spokesperson said: “The mobile unit comes with a small chiller built in, which is what dictates the number of animals which can be slaughtered per day – extra chiller units can be supplied.”
The units include built-in stainless steel waste containers and a water supply will be needed, as is a waste drain.
Operators have to adhere to all the same regulations as normal slaughterhouses.
High costs and low hide prices hit smaller abattoirs
Research by the Campaign for Local Abattoirs found that nine representative small slaughterhouses served 1,000 farmers, suggesting about 100,000 British farms use small plants every year.
They are particularly important for farms who sell their own meat, as well as those who rear small volumes of specialist animals, such as rare breeds.
High waste disposal costs and a requirement for CCTV in facilities at a cost of at least £6,000 a unit have made some small plants uneconomic, but one of the main reasons is a plummeting in value of hides and skins.
John Mettrick, who runs a small abattoir in Derbyshire, said: “We were getting £45 for cattle hides and £6.50 for sheep skins 20 years ago.
“We now get £1 for a hide if it is in perfect condition and nothing for skins. So instead of getting £15,750 for cattle hides we only get £350.”