An award-winning organic abattoir has blamed red tape for its decision to bar small-scale livestock farmers from using its services.
Laverstoke Park Farm abattoir, in Overton, Hampshire, was founded by former champion racing driver Jody Scheckter.
The business has won dozens of accolades for its products and praise for its support of local food and farming businesses.
But in a letter to producers sent on 23 September, it said it could no longer support small-scale farms. The letter added that from 24 October the facility would only take batches of more than five cattle and 10 pigs or lambs because it was being swamped by paperwork.
The decision was greeted with shock by scores of local producers in the county who depend on the unit.
Sarah Mills who farms at Parsonage Farm, Upton, sells specialist beef, lamb and pork products . Mrs Mills described the closure letter as a “bolt out of the blue which had caused huge heartache, anger and distress for Hampshire livestock producers”.
“We got the letter and were told we had four weeks before we could no longer use the abattoir. We use Laverstoke because of the high welfare and level of customer care,” she said.
“Every animal that arrives brings with it reams of paperwork. We have been asked if we could take batches of animals grouped by local farms. But the problem remains that each holding represented – even though it is part of a bigger group – still carries with it the same level of paperwork and we simply cannot do this.”
“Our products are reared and handled within Hampshire and our custom is based on that point. We are now faced with taking our stock on journeys of more than one-and-a-half hours to places as far away as Oxford.”
Goatmeat producer Linda-Marie Barnett of Devese Farm, Wickham, Hampshire, echoed Mrs Mills’ sentiments.
“We have been stunned by the letter and cannot find a suitable alternative nearby.
“We have tried but faced a two-hour journey which pushed up fuel costs. We arrived at the plant at 7am but it was 4pm before we left because the larger customers went ahead of us,” Mrs Barnett said.
She added that she hoped Laverstoke Park would review their case.
“We are regular customers because we sell at weekly farmers’ markets and arrange deliveries a month in advance. Laverstoke has pledged to consider individual cases carefully and we are hoping they may let us continue.”
A Laverstoke spokeswoman told Farmers Weekly of the company’s regret and explained why the decision had been taken.
“Some of our customers brought in single animals and had prescriptive cutting and hanging times. We have in the past carried out their individual wishes but this bespoke service cannot be sustained commercially any longer. We deeply regret having to make this decision. It hasn’t been taken lightly.”
She blamed the move on red tape. “Every animal that arrives brings with it reams of paperwork. We have been asked if we could take batches of animals grouped by local farms. But the problem remains that each holding represented – even though it is part of a bigger group – still carries with it the same level of paperwork and we simply cannot do this.”