Meat inspectors are threatening to disrupt meat production with a strike over working hours.

About 1000 inspectors are due to ballot on strike action this week, which could see them stop work for 72 hours.

Previous strikes have closed abattoirs as the meat cannot be sold uninspected.

If the strike goes ahead, livestock farmers could be severely out of pocket and supermarket shelves could go unstocked.

“Many farmers sell their animals once a week, and if a strike falls on their market day their cash-flow is stemmed,” said Christopher Dodds of the Livestock Auctioneers Association.

The beef and lamb trade is a year-round business – but many farmers rely on Christmas sales as much as poultry farmers.”

It is predicted that 83% of UNISON members will ballot for strike, with inspectors complaining they will only receive a pay rise if they agree to work unsociable hours.

“The final customer will be hit hardest,” said Peter King of Two Sisters food group.