Over the past decade a third of the UK's small, local abattoirs have closed.
The Campaign for Local Abattoirs (CFLA) was established to help maintain and expand this network.
It consists of various organisations and individuals who are gravely concerned about the escalating loss of local abattoirs, which leads to increased live transport of animals, a loss of local traceable meat, and a reduction of economic activity, particularly in rural areas.
By producing factual information, we hope to persuade public opinion and government of the importance of our network of such abattoirs and the many benefits they bring.
What We've Achieved So Far
Abattoir Report (February 2018)
Through the Sustainable Food Trust, a report was produced in 2018 on the current state of the UK's smaller abattoirs. The report can be viewed here
Submission to Defra's consultation on Health and Harmony (May 2018)
The UK is in serious danger of losing its local, traceable meat supplies unless urgent government action is taken. This is the stark warning given to Defra in a response to its recent Health and Harmony consultation, by an alliance of organisations and individuals concerned about the rapid decline of smaller local abattoirs.
In their submission to Defra the Campaign for Local Abattoirs (CFLA) grouping, including the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) and National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT), as well as smaller abattoir owners and other experts, describe the crisis facing smaller abattoirs.
Smaller abattoirs offer a specialist service of Private Kill, where farmers bring their animals for slaughter and receive back the meat and offal for sale to their customers, who can be assured that they are buying local, traceable meat. Without the smaller abattoirs, this is simply not possible. As more close, so distances to the nearest facility increase, until it is simply not financially viable for the farmer, and so farm shops, farmers markets, local butchers and mail order meat businesses will also face closure. This cycle has now reached a critical level, with several blackspots around the country where smaller abattoirs simply do not exist. This leads to animal welfare issues where they have to travel further to slaughter.
As the CFLA paper explains, the benefits of smaller local abattoirs go way beyond simply slaughtering farm animals. The Public Goods they produce include more of the economic benefits within the local community, reducing environmental damage from long road journeys, offering local employment, and acting as a catalyst for new local businesses to develop.
The reasons for this crisis are complex, but include strong downward pressure on profitability from high volume abattoirs supplying mass markets at low margins; increased costs of waste disposal; excessive regulation hitting smaller businesses disproportionately and low prices paid to small abattoirs for hides and skins.
The CFLA paper uses information from the recent SFT report on the subject (see above). In its conclusions, the report calls on government to publicly recognise what a unique and vital part of the national food supply chain smaller abattoirs are; to establish an urgent in-depth enquiry to understand the many problems facing the sector; and with the help of the industry to come up with practical solutions, which could include mobile abattoirs which enable on-farm slaughter, especially in areas with no smaller abattoirs.
The CFLA submission concludes “It is essential that the smaller abattoir sector is viewed holistically and UK-wide. It requires a thorough understanding of the reasons for the continuing decline of the sector, and practical and effective measures which will facilitate its long-term sustainability.”
Read full submission here.
Press Release: Joint Letter to Michael Gove Urges Action to Save Small Abattoirs
Thirty-four organisations, reflecting a wide range of food, farming, consumer and nature conservation interests have written a joint letter to Defra’s Secretary of State, Michael Gove, asking him to take urgent action to save the UK’s network of smaller abattoirs, which are closing at an alarming rate.
The group ranges from the National Trust and RSPCA to the Scottish Crofting Federation, the Women’s Institute and the National Sheep Association. In the letter they point out that the existence of a network of smaller abattoirs enabling thousands of family farmers to supply meat and other livestock products to a growing number of customers, either directly or via retail and catering outlets, represents a huge national asset.
The Government has indicated that it prefers farm animals to be slaughtered close to the place of production, yet the statistics show that the opposite is happening. A third of small abattoirs have closed in the past ten years and closures are continuing. A further 6 (10%) of small abattoirs have closed in the last twelve months, with the latest, Bakers of Nailsea, which has been serving farmers and butchers in Somerset for 120 years, closing its door for the final time during the last month.
Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said, “The sale of locally-produced meat helps to keep many family farmers in business and has huge benefits for consumers and the environment. For the first time in my farming lifetime, Defra is genuinely striving to develop a more sustainable food system with additional focus on animal welfare. But that could come unstuck if we lose more local abattoirs. Without local slaughtering there will be no traceable local meat, it’s as simple as that.”
John Mettrick, Chairman of National Craft Butchers and owner of a small abattoir in Derbyshire, said, “We have hit a perfect storm of problems: increased costs, rock bottom prices for hides and skins, some gold-plated regulations, and excessive paperwork, much of it involving unnecessary duplication.”
Sara Jane Staines of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts said, “We need to be able to fly the flag for less but better-quality meat with a known provenance. We can’t do that without accessible abattoirs across the country.”
Michael Gove has acknowledged the problem facing producer-retailers who lose their local abattoir. The signatories of the joint letter now want him to take urgent action to help the smaller abattoir sector, which is in danger of further contraction. This would include setting up a group to advise on how best to resolve the regulatory and other problems besetting smaller abattoirs in order to ensure their continued survival.
The Campaign for Local Abattoirs, which coordinated the joint letter, was established by the Sustainable Food Trust and National Craft Butchers to highlight the current crisis in the supply of local meat.
Read the Join Letter here.
Agriculture Bill must help ensure the survival of local abattoirs - Briefing Paper
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, as well as new capital expenditure requirements.
In a Parliamentary Briefing paper 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. 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.
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.
Read the Briefing paper here.
Press Release: We respond to animal welfare groups on CCTV cameras
The Sustainable Food Trust recognises the potential benefits of CCTV in abattoirs in preventing welfare abuses but is calling on animal rights and animal welfare groups, which have complained that some abattoirs have not yet installed CCTV,  to recognise the genuine problems currently faced by many smaller abattoirs.
Click here to read the full press release.