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Shortage of Butchers Threatens UK Christmas Meat Supply, Industry Says

© AFP 2023 / JOHN GILESYork Butcher Guy Dambrauskas holds ribs of beef in his shop window (File)
York Butcher Guy Dambrauskas holds ribs of beef in his shop window (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.10.2021
LONDON (Sputnik) – A shortage of butchers could impact meat supplies over Christmas for millions of people in the United Kingdom, and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) told a Sputnik correspondent on 1 October that the only short-term solution is to recruit them from overseas.
“We have been warning of a chronic shortage of trained butchers for some time, and our estimates put the shortfall of trained workers with butchery qualifications at around 10,000,” the BMPA press team said, adding that following the UK departure from the European Union in December, a large number of European workers returned to their countries.
In a statement sent to Sputnik, the spokesperson stressed that given that people in the UK have been generally reluctant to enter the industry and that it takes at least 18 months to train a new recruit to become a fully qualified butcher, “the only short-term source of these skills is from overseas.”
“These skills are critical to the continued running of Britain’s meat plants. If the number of butchers on a production line falls below the required level, production slows and less food is produced,” the Association said.
On Friday, The Times newspaper reported that the government is considering plans to ease visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers, adding that Home Minister Priti Patel does not feel comfortable with the idea.
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In a statement, a spokesperson for Patel´s ministry said the government was closely monitoring labor supply, but that it encourages all sectors to make long-term investments in the UK workforce instead of relying on labor from abroad.
However, the BMPA disagreed with the government´s proposal, arguing that training and qualification programs will not bear fruit quickly enough to prevent meat shortage over Christmas.
“If that’s the case and no short-term support is forthcoming from Government in the form of access to migrant labour, we will see this key industry diminished and Britain’s food security weakened,” it said.
The UK government has already announced that it will start granting temporary work visas for 10,000 foreign truck drivers and poultry workers to solve the shortage of labor force affecting the supply chain.
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