Industry leaders have joined forces with conservation groups to condemn proposals that will more than double the cost of meat control inspections.
Plans to pass on the full cost of inspections were endorsed by the Food Standards Agency on Wednesday (25 May). The FSA believes using taxpayers’ money to pay for inspections is effectively a subsidy to the meat industry that should be scrapped.
If government ministers agree, meat processors now face a £32m hike in inspection costs from £23.5m a year to more than £55m – a prospect smaller abattoirs fear will put them out of business.
Food agency chairman Jeff Rooker accepted there was widespread opposition from the meat industry to the proposal. But the agency had made the best effort to find a workable solution.
Proposals to offer low-throughput abattoirs a sliding scale discount on meat inspections would form part of the recommendations to ministers, although administering such a scheme would increase overall costs by £600,000.
The move to pass on costs comes despite warnings that doing so threaten the viability of British livestock farming. Smaller abattoirs supported the livelihoods of thousands of livestock farmers, said local food campaigner Caroline Cranbrook
Livestock were an essential part of the infrastructure that maintained the landscape, environment and grassland biodiversity, said Lady Cranbrook. “It is no exaggeration to say that these abattoirs are the lynchpin of the countryside.”