Abattoir survey results published

Scottish Small Producer Access to Abattoirs Report
Roderick Low

The findings of the Scottish Small Producer Access to Abattoirs Report, published this week, highlight the various challenges facing producers who require ‘private kill’ services in Scotland, and the abattoirs providing them.

The research, conducted by SAOS on behalf of the Small Producers’ Pilot Fund (SPPF) Steering Group and Food from Fife, involved a survey of Scottish producers who utilise private kill services, together with interviews with representatives from Scottish abattoirs providing private kill services. Six key recommendations emerged from the outputs of the survey and consultation exercise which have the potential to address the vulnerability of private kill services across Scotland. 

Around 40% of survey respondents indicated that the constricted nature of the private kill abattoir network limited what they could process, with welfare concerns due to travel times, traceability, and communication, also highlighted as issues. The survey also found that limited access to butchery services affects the ability of producers to supply added-value product into local supply chains.

Undertaking private kill is not the main focus for most of the mainland abattoir facilities and they often find it challenging to service this market. Demand, location, difficulty in employing and retaining a skilled workforce, and operating structure are also key challenges to running viable abattoirs for private kill.

Agriculture Minister, Jim Fairlie, said:

“I would like to thank everyone who participated in the study. An analysis of the data is now underway which we will use to inform our future decisions.

“Small producers are a crucial lynchpin of our rural economy and it is vital that we improve their access to Scotland’s wider food supply chain. This will help bolster our food security whilst improving fairness for our small rural businesses.

“This report was funded through our Small Producer Pilot Fund which has been allocated £180,000 so far this year. This is an example of our ongoing efforts to help individual small producers increase their resilience, enhance their contribution to the rural economy and become more sustainable.”

SAOS’s Fergus Younger, a member of the SPPF abattoir subgroup, highlighted:

“Collaborative working - between producers, abattoirs, and butchery operators is vital to addressing the challenges of servicing the private kill market. Improving co-ordination in throughput could not only improve the economics of existing facilities but could offer the producer a simpler route to access abattoir services. The Small Producer Pilot Fund Steering Group is keen that assistance be focused on the areas of greatest need and improve the options for producers looking to utilise these facilities.”

Following up on the report’s findings, SAOS has been working with Mull slaughterhouse to trial whether additional private kill co-ordination support could help producers secure better access and help the abattoir operate a more efficient business. Similarly, SAOS has been working with Munro’s of Dingwall to help fully understand the costs associated with servicing the private kill sector.

Key findings of the report; 

  • Interviews with the current mainland network of Scottish abattoirs revealed that they are mainly private meat wholesale businesses (or collaborations of companies) that operate an abattoir and service the private kill market as a “bolt-on” to their core business. Undertaking private kill is not the main focus of most of these facilities and is often challenging and financially difficult to service.
  • The operating history of these businesses indicates that they are situated by way of original start up location and subsequent business consolidations/amalgamations, rather than being strategically placed to accommodate the geography of Scotland. Only half of the abattoirs consulted were operating near capacity. Those operating at sub capacity may incur pressure on their financial viability due to lack of throughput. Some small private, community and local authority facilities operate on the islands, solely serving the private kill market.
  • The producer survey found that 40% of responders were either, limited in what they could process, or could not process at all, due to the constricted nature of the abattoir network of private kill services. Access and availability to abattoir services are the key issues facing producers, with distance, welfare, traceability and communication all highlighted as concerns.
  • Access to the necessary butchery services in some areas is a further disincentive for producers to supply their local food economies and add value to their produce. Challenges differ between regions, with some island and remote facilities also requiring help to find a route to slaughter. Most areas recorded up to a two-hour one-way journey to reach an abattoir.

The Full report can be found; 

Scottish Producer Access to Abattoirs Final Report April 2024.pdf (saos.coop)