Fears for future of flagship abattoir
The Food Standards Agency – which currently contributes £32m a year towards the cost of inspection – wants to pass back the full amount to meat processors. The plan would see the annual cost to industry soar from £23.5m to £55m.
Kevin Burrows, managing director of Suffolk-based abattoir J H Lambert, said family-run processing plants would be worst hit by the controversial proposals with “serious implications” for his business and thousands of local farmers.
Mr Burrows said he accepted that meat had to be inspected. But he added: “It is wrong that a government body can charge whatever it likes for inspections and then pass the entire cost back to the industry without any choice.”
Closure of Lambert’s abattoir at Eye would be a bitter blow for the region’s rural economy. The 40,000ft2 facility opened last year following a £5m investment that created 35 new jobs.
After eight abattoir closures in the past decade, the Eye slaughterhouse is considered crucial to East Anglia’s livestock sector. Its loss would see animals transported further to slaughter and threaten local meat supplies.
Local food campaigner Caroline Cranbrook (pictured), who has fought the closure of small and medium-sized abattoirs, said the loss of Lamberts threatened to spell the end for Suffolk’s grazing livestock industry.
“These abattoirs are of incalculable value to the local economy,” said Lady Cranbrook. “ You cannot run a farm shop or a farmers’ market without a local abattoir. And without grazing livestock we would also lose our landscape.”
Graham Brand, of Suffolk poultry packers Jack Brand, said processors were already paying over the odds for an inefficient meat hygiene system. “We are currently not being provided with a service at a realistic price.”
Ipswich butcher George Debman, of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, said the agency had failed to consider the knock-on effects on family-run retailers already operating on tight margins.
But agency officials insist processors should pay more for inspections. “The current discount is effectively an industry subsidy from taxpayers,” said Michael Jackson, the agency’s head of food safety and enforcement.
The issue was discussed during a heated public meeting between agency staff and meat industry officials at Colchester last month. Government ministers will are now due to make a decision on the proposals.