If there are no smaller, local abattoirs, there is no local, traceable meat - it is as simple as that.
Over the past decade, a third of the UK's small, local abattoirs have closed. The reasons for the continuing closures include; the disproportionately high burden of regulation imposed on small abattoirs, falling cattle numbers nationally and the currently very low and often negative profitability of the sector due to the increasing dominance of supermarkets who use large industrial abattoirs' scale to drive down costs and increase their profits.
The UK’s smallest abattoirs are currently facing an unprecedented crisis. There are now only around 62 small red meat abattoirs left in the UK.
At a time when demand for sustainable, traceable, local food is on the rise, and issues of welfare and health are at the forefront of many consumers’ minds, the loss of more than a third of small abattoirs over the last decade alone is jeopardising the future of local food systems with integrity.
"More and more people are becoming aware of the food they put into their body and the impact on health. Meat should be part of a healthy, locally consumed diet."
Says our founder Peter Greig, when he was asked to speak on this matter earlier in the year at the Oxford Real Farming Conference.
For over 30 years we have been fighting for the survival of small scale abattoirs, they are a vital lifeline for the farming community.
"Animals should not only have a good life but also a compassionate death, which we believe is impossible unless there is a local abattoir. Without local abattoirs, we simply will not be able to support the transition to sustainable farming systems. The small abattoir renaissance is not a marginal issue, it is an absolutely essential component of this transition plan." Patrick Holden, of the CEO Sustainable Food Trust, rightly states.
The last 18 months have shown us that the model of 'just in time goods' and long complex supply chains that are controlled by few, aimed at feeding the many, simply do not work. With increased concerns over how we feed the nation, it is clear that a change in tactics is urgently needed.
One of the key benefits of smaller scale local abattoirs is that they are able to pivot and adapt when issues arise. John Mettrick, chair of the Abattoir Sector Group, mentions, "If there are any national issues, like in the past with foot-and-mouth disease or BSE, small and local supply chains come into their own, they are more reactive and efficient to change quickly, that is because they know each stage and person in the process."
If we really want to see sustainable agriculture in the UK, with farmers empowered to feed the nation with locally grown, traceable food, now is the time for Government to step up and support the infrastructure that enables this through investing in existing abattoirs so they can modernise, and enabling new abattoirs to be established.
By shopping with Pipers Farm, you are helping us to sustain small scale abattoirs and helping our rural community thrive.