The Smaller Abattoir Fund will provide grants for Food Standards Agency (FSA) approved red meat and poultry abattoirs – including mobile abattoirs – in England that slaughter up to 10,000 livestock units per annum for red meat abattoirs or up to 500,000 poultry birds.
Grants will be available to businesses with eligible capital items and investment projects with the aim of improving productivity, enhancing animal health and welfare, adding value to primary products and encouraging the introduction of innovative approaches and the use of new technologies.
The new fund has been broadly welcomed by members of the meat processing industry, who commended the UK government’s recognition that small abattoirs are an important part of the food chain.
Importance to the food chain
John Mettrick, chair of the Abattoir Sector Group, said: “I am delighted that the Smaller Abattoir Fund has launched. This demonstrates that the Government recognises the importance of small abattoirs to farmers, butchers and the whole rural supply chain.
This fund has been developed by Defra, the FSA, the Abattoir Sector Group and the meat industry working together. I would urge abattoir businesses to take advantage of the fund to help develop their businesses for the future.”
A list of capital investments will be published with the guidance documents, but there will also be opportunity for applicants to apply for additional investments if they can provide evidence that shows these items comply with the fund’s aims, objectives and eligibility criteria.
National Craft Butchers managing director Eleanor O’Brien added: “A robust network of abattoirs is crucial for our industry and plays a vital role in ensuring the high standards of animal welfare, food safety and traceability.
“As well as providing an essential service to farmers, butchers, and small-scale producers, they are also important employers in rural areas and contribute significantly to local economies.
“We commend the government for recognising the importance of small abattoirs and taking action to support their continued operation, we hope this is the first step towards ensuring their survival.”
Small abattoirs in the UK have been struggling for some time now, with businesses closing at a rate of 10% a year. Outside of the knock on effect their closures have on small meat businesses unable to secure locally sourced produce, animals that do go to slaughter have to travel much further to reach larger abattoirs – increasing food miles and their environmental impact.
Megan Perry, head of policy and campaigns at the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “Small abattoirs are the cornerstone of local meat supply chains, supporting farmers, local meat businesses and providing the critical infrastructure to make a nationwide transition to sustainable farming systems viable.
“If we are to build a truly sustainable and resilient food system here in the UK then we need the infrastructure to support it. This fund is crucial to achieving this and we thank all those involved with bringing it about.”
Meanwhile, the UK Government has pledged £2bn to fund research, development and infrastructure in engineering biology.