22 June 2000
Brown under pressure on abattoirs

by FWi staff

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown is under pressure to approve radical proposals that would offer a lifeline to small abattoirs.

A report by a meat inspection charges taskforce is set to advise the government that it should contribute 14-19m towards inspection charges.

The proposals, which have been widely leaked over the past fortnight, will be made public when they are published on Monday (26 June).

Government support would enable smaller and medium-sized abattoirs to be charged on each animal slaughtered, rather than on an hourly rate.

Other European countries already charge on a subsidised throughput basis, allowing bigger plants to pick up the actual cost of inspections.

Many British retailers, which sell large amounts of red meat, see big processing plants as being more efficient than smaller abattoirs.

But British beef farmers have warned that the role of big abattoirs dedicated to supplying meat to supermarkets is being massively overplayed.

The core will be ripped out of the meat distribution network unless smaller abattoirs are given a chance, claimed the National Beef Association.

Meat hygiene inspection charges faced by small and medium cutting plants should be reduced, said Keith Redpath, NBA vice-chairman.

This army of seemingly invisible companies makes sure that everyone is offered the widest possible selection of beef and beef products, he said.

The taskforce, which investigated the meat inspection process, found that medium-range abattoirs handle 50% of slaughtered cattle in Britain.