The Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) and National Craft Butchers (NCB), which jointly set up the Campaign for Local Abattoirs, have welcomed comments from the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove MP, to the EFRA Select Committee yesterday on the future for small abattoirs.

Michael Gove said, “A number of people have made [a] strong and articulate case for the survival of smaller abattoirs and one of the things we are looking at is whether or not there should be direct intervention in order to help smaller abattoirs survive, that is something under active consideration at the moment.”

In response, Richard Young, SFT policy director, said, “This is a very encouraging indication that the Secretary of State has been listening to our concerns and we hope the government will see this through before more small abattoirs have to close. Every time another small abattoir is forced out of business it has major impacts for the farmers who used that abattoir.”

“Many farmers, especially those in environmental stewardship and agri-environment schemes, depend on being able to market the meat from their animals locally, and for them the availability of a local abattoir is essential. Where these close, live animals and meat have to travel further, and it becomes uneconomical for some farmers to continue marketing their own meat. This in turn can threaten the viability of their whole farm business.”

John Mettrick, NCB’s President, said, “We welcome the Secretary of State’s indication that providing help to small abattoirs is under active consideration within Defra. We have seen seven small abattoirs close within the last year and more closures will follow if help is not forthcoming. The amounts needed to save the industry are extremely small in comparison with the amounts made available to agriculture generally.”

“There are now less than 100 small abattoirs left in England and Wales, eight in Scotland and none in Northern Ireland, and in the current climate it is very difficult for them to make ends meet. Since it costs about £1 million to set up a small abattoir from scratch it will be far more cost-effective to save existing abattoirs than be forced to build new ones in future.”


For further information contact Megan Perry, Communications Manager for the Sustainable Food Trust

Notes for Editors

  1. The Sustainable Food Trust is a registered charity with a mission to make food production and consumption more sustainable. National Craft Butchers is a membership organisation which represents 800 independent butchers, many of which have their own small abattoir.
  2. With only limited exceptions, large abattoirs are not able to slaughter small numbers of animals for individual producers and return the carcases and offal to them, because they are designed for high throughput. Unlike most small abattoirs they are also unable to butcher and pack an individual producer’s carcases, make sausages and burgers or cure meat for them.
  3. A survey by the SFT in late 2018 found that 11% of small abattoirs were losing money, a further 50% were struggling to break even, while even those that were still making a profit were not making sufficient income to give their businesses a long-term future.
  4. The cost per animal slaughtered of investing in CCTV and other new equipment, are all much higher for small abattoirs than larger ones. Many small abattoirs only slaughter one day a week and in all cases the throughput is much lower.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest SFT views and news