Small abattoirs are essential for the marketing of local meat from farms with high welfare and environmental standards, but numbers continue to decline.

They are unable to compete due to bureaucracy, excessive regulation, increasing costs and falling income [1], as well as new capital expenditure requirements [2].

In a Parliamentary Briefing paper [3] the Sustainable Food Trust and the Campaign for Local Abattoirs call for the assistance of MPs and Peers in helping to ensure the survival of the local meat sector, which the closure of small abattoirs puts at risk.

Local meat producers, whether organic, pasture-fed, rare breed, free-range or heritage breed, depend on small abattoirs because large ones are generally not able to slaughter animals for individual producers and return both carcases and offal to them for sale through farm shops, independent butchers and other local outlets.

A third of the smallest abattoirs (those slaughtering less than 1,000 livestock units a year) closed between 2007 and 2017. Six more have closed this year, taking the number to just 57. Including the 49 abattoirs slaughtering up to 5,000 livestock units annually, many of which also serve local meat producers, there are now only about 100 abattoirs to which local meat producers can turn [4]. Parts of the country are already without a local abattoir and if the decline is allowed to continue, the supply of local, fully traceable meat will dry up.

Richard Young, Sustainable Food Trust policy director, said, “This is a completely unnecessary tragedy. Producers who have adopted less intensive production methods that meet the increasing public demand for high welfare local meat, are having to take their animals further and further to get them slaughtered, increasing costs, reducing welfare and causing more vehicle emissions than necessary. There comes a point when this is no longer economically viable.”

John Mettrick, President of National Craft Butchers, said, “All sectors of the red meat industry have been under pressure recently, but small abattoirs are being hit especially hard by plummeting prices for hides and skins, rapidly increasing waste disposal costs and new capital investment requirements for which there is no grant aid in the UK except in Wales.”

The Welsh Government has made specific funding available for its 15 small abattoirs [5].

Over the last year, some small abattoirs have seen the cost of waste disposal double, due to consolidation in the rendering industry and resulting lack of competition. In recent weeks cattle hide prices have fallen to half their 2014 values and sheep skins are fetching just 10-20p, whereas twenty years ago they were worth £6.00 each.

Defra and the Food Standards Agency have recently shown a welcome willingness to engage with some of the issues, however, increased impetus is needed to prevent more small abattoirs from being forced to close before the end of the year [6].


For further information contact:

Megan Perry, SFT Communications Manager


Notes for Editors

[1] There is unnecessary duplication of paperwork between agencies and the administrative burden falls more heavily on small abattoirs due to the lower number of animals covered by each form. While the FSA does make some concessions for smaller abattoirs, there is further scope to introduce derogations for small abattoirs, which would reduce costs while still maintaining high hygiene and welfare standards.

[2] Infrastructure costs vary between abattoirs but include the need to install head restraints for cattle, upgrade electrical stunning equipment for sheep and pigs, and install CCTV cameras. The relative costs of all these improvements are significantly higher per animal for small abattoirs because they only slaughter one or two days a week, have much lower throughput and smaller lairage pens, each of which must still have its own CCTV camera. In addition, installation costs are generally higher in older buildings.

[3] A copy of the Parliamentary Briefing paper can be downloaded at

[4]. This number excludes Halal slaughterhouses, poultry slaughterhouses and abattoirs on the Channel Islands.

[5] The Welsh Government has made £1.1 million available for infrastructure grants for its 15 smallest abattoirs: In the rest of the UK there is no grant funding tailored to the small abattoir sector. LEADER funding is not available in many areas and requires additional jobs to be created, a requirement many small abattoirs cannot meet in the current economic climate.

[6] The Secretary of State has made a number of supportive public statements, including during the Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill, and Lord Gardiner has asked Defra and FSA officials to look into some of the problem areas. A copy of a letter sent to Michael Gove and signed by 34 organisations, is available A copy of his reply is available on request.

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