Local meat farms 'operating at 50 percent' due to labour shortage and lack of drivers

There’s enough meat being bred on our doorstep for Christmas dinner – but a shortage of slaughterhouse workers and delivery drivers means our pigs-in-blankets may have to be imported instead.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 3:36 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 3:38 pm
Pigs may have to be culled as populations pile up in meat farm while slaughterhouses struggle to keep up

Blackpool pig farmer Wayne Baguley, 63, said he has “plenty” of animals, though he warned some may be culled – with their meat wasted – because of bottle-necks elsewhere.

He said: “The issue is the slaughterhouses are not taking the numbers because they are saying they haven’t got the staff ... because a lot of the Europeans have gone back. Plus they don’t have the drivers to deliver.

"It's not that there's not enough meat in the country, it's the fact that they are not getting it through the system. They may have to start culling pigs if it continues.

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"If you keep them on the farm too long they can go overweight, and that means they lose sometimes 30 per cent of the value."

For a pig to be taken to slaughter, it must weigh no more than 105kg. Any more than that, Wayne said, and the value of the animal plummets - with some slaughterhouses refusing to take them at all.

"There's pig farmers I know who are exiting the industry and they are exiting rapidly," he said.

"It's like a housing chain. The first house is the farmer, the second is the processor, and the third is the retailer. If the middle house is failing, then the first and the third and going to suffer."

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said Christmas turkeys are likely to come from the Continent this year due to labour shortages in Britain following Brexit.

While a resort butcher admitted his meat may be frozen and imported.

He said “We’ve been making some calls in the past couple of weeks to check we’ll have supplies for Christmas, and luckily we don’t think there’ll be too much of an issue. But if we end up not being able to get the supplies, it doesn’t matter to us where the meat comes from. We’d rather sell meat from other countries at Christmas than sell nothing at all.”

While meat producers have also warned labour shortages could affect the ability to get turkeys onto plates this Christmas, the head of supermarket Morrisons, which has large branches at South Shore and Cleveleys, said supply chain issues have been “slightly overblown”.

Andrew Higginson brushed aside speculation recent challenges could affect Christmas trade and he thinks it will be a “good” festive season for customers.

Asked if he has any concerns over the impact of supply pressures on Christmas, he said: “No, we aren’t worried, it tends to come every year. And everyone appears to be ready for it so I think it will be a good Christmas for people – they will want to treat themselves as they usually do. There are logistical issues at the moment and those are well publicised and slightly overblown.

“Supply chains in the UK are incredibly efficient and I am sure we will be able to deliver a great Christmas for customers as we go through.”

It came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak today said he can’t “wave a magic wand” to make supply chain problems go away.

He said the Government will do all it can to “mitigate” global supply issues but he conceded there is disruption and did not rule out Christmas being affected.