LACK OF government investment and restrictive red tape is ‘twisting the knife’ in small family-run abattoirs, with further closures announced across the UK.

The Scottish Farmer heard from award winning butcher and abattoir owner William Lloyd Williams, who has made the decision to close the doors of his small family-run business in Machynlleth, Mid Wales, after almost 70 years of serving the local community.

In the late 80’s he recalled supplying around six butchers in the local area, but said they have all been pushed out by supermarkets, leaving him as the ‘last man standing’, providing both high welfare, traceable meat though his butcher shop and private kills for local farmers and crofters – up until now.

“During the late 80’s and early 90’s you would get £3 for a lamb skin but now you get nothing,” said Mr Williams. “I would also get £60 a week for my animal by-products and now you have to pay £400 per week to get rid of them.

“These rising costs have forced small abattoir owners to live on tight margins, but now with the restrictiveness of government policies added to the mix, it is making succession planning difficult, if not almost impossible for owners.”

A recent survey by National Craft Butchers found that 56% of small abattoir owners do not have a succession plan or someone to take over the business and that 70% are aged over 51.

Mr Williams includes himself in these figures, making the difficult decision to close down his abattoir and butchers, which have been in the family for three generations. Over the past few years, he said that the auditing process in particular had pushed his resilience to the limit.

“During a recent audit the inspector openly criticised my staff and made me feel like I was running a dirty business. It used to be you’re innocent till you’re proven guilty – I feel here I’m guilty and have to prove my innocence. I think my way of procuring animals for meat is the most sensible one and welfare friendly one, and yet I’m still looked at as a villain,” he stressed.

“I’m running a small family business which is winning national awards, yet they come in here and tear my business and my staff apart. I am not alone in this experience, so no wonder other small abattoir owners have given up the ghost.

“Why doesn’t the UK government want to look after the family businesses of this country instead of burying us in burdensome paperwork that is twisting a knife in our backs?”

Mr William’s abattoir supported over 300 businesses within 30 miles in the last year, some of which are customers he has had for 40 years, many supplying meat locally.

“During foot-and-mouth, the Ministry increased the capacity we could slaughter per unit to ensure animals didn’t have to travel into areas where the disease was circulating,” he continued. “When it suits them, they can change the rules, but now that we are struggling with our own crisis, they throw the rule book at us and make it harder for us to stay afloat.

“The government want us to tick the boxes of traceability, animal welfare, low carbon footprint, yet nobody puts the money where their mouth is to help us to make this happen,” he concluded.