Friday, October 1, 2021

Butcher shortage prompting pig culling

The United Kingdom is so short of butchers that pigs are backing up on farms and farmers say they may soon have to start culling some.

The situation is similar to Quebec when Olymel workers at its largest packing plant engaged in a strike and farmers ended up euthanizing thousands of market-ready hogs.

The British farming industry has warned that hundreds of thousands of pigs may have to be culled within weeks unless the government issues visas to allow more butchers into the country.

Reuters news agency reports that an acute shortage of butchers and slaughterers in the meat processing industry has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and Britain's post-Brexit immigration policy, which has restricted the flow of east European workers.

The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to alleviate shortages but has given no indication it will introduce schemes for other areas. It argues businesses should invest in their workforce and improve pay and conditions.

Lizzie Wilson, policy services officer at the National Pig Association said the shortage of butchers meant processors were operating at 25 per cent reduced capacity.

As a result mature pigs ready for processing are backing-up on farms, causing welfare issues.

"There's about 120,000 pigs sat on farm currently that should have already been slaughtered, butchered, be within the food chain and eaten by now," said Wilson.

"It is getting to the point where we are saying to government if we don't get some help soon we're going to have to look at culling pigs on farm, because that's our only option now," she said, adding "there are some producers that have already had the conversation."

Britain's biggest pork processors are Cranswick, Morrisons, Pilgrim's Pride and Karro Food Group.

Wilson said consumers were already seeing the impact of the crisis on supermarket shelves as processors had rationalised pork product ranges.