Publication - Research and analysis

Mobile abattoirs - viability and sustainability: report

Published: 12 Mar 2020
From:
Director-General Economy
Directorate:
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Farming and rural
ISBN:
9781839606076

The findings of a study carried out to determine whether or not mobile slaughter units (MSUs) would be viable in Scotland.

133 page PDF

1.6 MB

133 page PDF

1.6 MB

Contents
Mobile abattoirs - viability and sustainability: report
Appendix 2: Stakeholder Engagement Data – Farmers, Crofters, and Smallholders

133 page PDF

1.6 MB

Appendix 2: Stakeholder Engagement Data – Farmers, Crofters, and Smallholders

Engagement Results

Overview

Livestock owners, consisting of smallholders, crofters and farmers were engaged with to understand if there is a need and demand for an MSU service. The engagement with farmers took place using a number of different methodologies and the results of the structured surveys and additional notes from the qualitative interviews are provided below.

Results of Engagement with Farmers Through Structured Telephone Interviews

Overview and Profile of Farmers

18 farmers participated in the telephone interviews, farming across a range of livestock species, including beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, poultry (not included in the MSU scope of work) and pigs, including 2 registered organic farmers. The profile is shown in Table 19. The participants ranged in both holding size and location, covering a wide range of the country, including the central belt, the islands and highlands (see Table 20).

Table 19. Details of the number of farms out of the 18 interviewed, with different livestock types.
Land use Number of farms (out of 18)
QMS member 15
Organic 2
Farms with arable/temporary grass 8
Permanent grass (Grade 1) 13
Permanent grass (Grades 2 and 3) 11
Beef, sheep 8
Beef, dairy, sheep 1
Beef, dairy, sheep, pigs 1
Beef, sheep, pigs 1
Beef, sheep, poultry, pigs 1
Sheep 2
Sheep, pigs 1
Pigs 1
Poultry, pigs 1
Other 1

The farms with arable and temporary grass all grew food for the livestock and/or grazed the land. Beef and dairy cattle were generally inside during the winter and outside on temporary and permanent grassland during the spring, summer and autumn. Sheep were generally outside all year except for lambing time.

Table 20. Details of farm size and location for the 18 participants
Total land area (ha) Number of farms Location
<5 1 North Lanarkshire (Motherwell)
5-10 1 Angus
11-25 1 Inverness
26-50 1 Inverness
50-100 1 Orkney
101-150 4 Isle of Skye, Paisley, Argyll, Aberdeen
150-250 1 Glasgow
251-500 1 Dumfries and Galloway (Castle Douglas)
>500 7 Sutherland, Caithness, Dumfries & Galloway, East Ayrshire, Perth

The following summarises how the 18 participating farmers finish their animals:

  • 12 finished all or the majority of their livestock on the farm.
  • 2 farmers based in Sutherland and Argyll finish up to 25% of their livestock with the rest sold as store at livestock markets.
  • 4 farmers never use an abattoir for their livestock - based in Caithness, Inverness, Perth and Skye. They sell all livestock as store at livestock markets (see Figure 8 below).

Of the 12 farms finishing livestock, there were three farmers who sell some or all of their finished livestock to one or more slaughter sales or a dealer - 1 in Ayrshire and 2 in Dumfries & Galloway.

Figure 8. The proportion of livestock finished on each farm for the 18 Scottish farms
Figure 8. The proportion of livestock finished on each farm for the 18 Scottish farms

In terms of abattoir usage and distances involved:

  • 11 farmers in total send livestock to abattoirs. Eight of these farmers use 2-4 abattoirs depending on a range of factors including:
    • Livestock type (not all abattoirs will process all livestock types)
    • Number of individuals, the limiting processing capacity of the closest abattoir,
    • Availability of private kill, and
    • Whether the abattoir is certified to process organic livestock.
  • Livestock from the farms surveyed were transported up to 245 miles to an abattoir.

For some farmers a >200-mile journey to an abattoir may take over four hours due to road conditions, or the requirement to travel by road and ferry making the journey at least eight hours. The number of runs per year per farm ranged from 1-100, and number of animals transported 1-400, with this variation both according to livestock type, production system and herd size.

Figure 9. Number of miles travelled to an abattoir
Figure 9. Number of miles travelled to an abattoir

The abattoirs offering private kill used by the farmers interviewed were: Munro’s (Dingwall), Downfield (Fife), Border Meats (Lockerbie), Millers of Speyside (Grantown-on Spey), John Scott/Sandyford (Paisley), PR Duff (Wishaw), Mull Abattoir (Isle of Mull) and James Chapman (Shotts).

Other abattoirs used were: AK Stoddart’s (Ayr), Woodhead Bros (Turriff), Tulip/Quality Pork Scotland (Brechin), Scotbeef (Bridge of Allan), Highland Meat (Saltcoats), Kepak McIntosh Donald (Aberdeen) and Pickstock Telford (north-west of Birmingham).

The following section provides the detailed responses from farmers engaged with.

Detailed Interview Responses

Q1. Do you think mobile abattoirs have the potential to provide farmers with a value-added service, by providing private kill and traceable meat products?

Figure 10 provides the overview of responses. When asked whether MSUs could offer added value by providing private kill, 11 farmers felt that MSUs could in theory be of benefit, offered a range of considerations including:

  • Beneficial for areas where the nearest abattoir is currently far away
  • Facility to slaughter all livestock including pigs and poultry (more smallholders would consider poultry if there was somewhere to slaughter them)
  • Organic certification required
  • Beneficial for the production of local, traceable food
  • Potential to access new market
  • Reduction in livestock miles

7 farmers responded that they felt MSUs would not add value or were unsure about the value.

Figure 10. Answer to question: do you think mobile abattoirs have the potential to provide farmers with a value-added service, by providing private kill and traceable meat products?
Figure 10. Answer to question: do you think mobile abattoirs have the potential to provide farmers with a value-added service, by providing private kill and traceable meat products?

Q2. Would you be interested in using a mobile abattoir facility if it was coming to your farm, for your own sole use?

Questions 2-4 relate to potential MSU models, with the results summarised in Figure 11. Of the 18 farmers surveyed, 3 may do so, 7 were potentially interested (said yes) and 8 would not use an MSU coming to their farm.

Figure 11. Opinions of farmers regarding theoretical MSU location and use
Figure 11. Opinions of farmers regarding theoretical MSU location and use

Q3. Would you be interested in using a mobile abattoir facility if it was in your area e.g. at a local host farm?

Of the 18 responses, 9 farmers were interested in using an MSU in the local area (answered yes) and 5 farmers would not use an MSU (e.g. at a local host farm, using a docking station approach. This was a lower number than those who would not want an MSU on their own farm.

Of the other 4 responses, 1 of those does not currently finish cattle, but would be interested from a private kill perspective. The other 3 farmers, who do not finish cattle, were unlikely to change their production system as they felt conditions in their location were not well suited to finishing cattle, as compared to milder more arable areas where finishing food can be produced locally. Several farmers suggested a local market or industrial estate as a docking station whereas others felt there was no obvious location near them.

Q4. Would you be potentially interested in “hosting” a mobile abattoir at your farm, for others to also use?

Only 2 of the farmers said they would consider hosting an MSU on their holding, with 14 saying no and 2 were unsure. The main reason for the lack of interest was biosecurity risk of other animals being on their holding, with the greatest concern from the pig farmers, followed by cattle.

Q5. If the minimum threshold for an MSU was 10 cattle, or 25 sheep or 25 pigs, would that present an issue?

Five of the farmers would have sufficient livestock to satisfy the minimum threshold scenario (Figure 12). The other farmers were either unsure (3 farmers) or certain that they would have insufficient livestock (6 farmers) or would not use an MSU in any case.

Figure 12. Answer to question: If the minimum threshold for an MSU was 10 Cattle, or 25 sheep or 25 pigs, would that present an issue?
Figure 12. Answer to question: If the minimum threshold for an MSU was 10 Cattle, or 25 sheep or 25 pigs, would that present an issue?

Results of Engagement Through the On-Line Survey

A survey monkey questionnaire was developed and advertised through a range of individual contacts, including: the Scottish Crofting Association, Smallholdings Scotland, and Scotland the Brand. The project then subsequently featured in a number of online publications and was available for a 4-week period from August to September 2019. Examples of these articles are provided below:

618 responses were received, an anonymised overview of the responses is shown below.

Q1. Can you state if you consider yourself to be ….:?
Answer Choices Responses
Smallholder 33.82% 209
Crofter 30.74% 190
larger-scale farmer 18.28% 113
Other 16.34% 101
If other (please specify) 106
Answered 618
Skipped 0
Figure 13. Answers to question 1
Figure 13. Answers to question 1
Q2. Do you think mobile abattoirs have the potential to provide your smallholding/croft/farm with a value-added service, by providing private kill and traceable meat products?
Answer Choices Responses
Yes 89.37% 538
No 2.33% 14
Depends 5.65% 34
Answered 602
Skipped 16
Figure 14. Answers to question 2
Figure 14. Answers to question 2
Q3. Do you believe that there would be customer demand for locally sourced, traceable meat arising from the mobile abattoir?
Answer Choices Responses
Yes 91.39% 552
No 1.66% 10
Depends 5.13% 31
Please comment on your response 263
Answered 604
Skipped 14
Q4. Would you be interested in any of the following?
Answer Choices Responses
Using a mobile abattoir facility if it was coming to you. 76.92% 450
“Hosting” a mobile abattoir at your croft/ smallholding/farm (for other farmers to bring livestock to). 38.12% 223
Using a mobile abattoir facility if it was in your area e.g. at a local host farm or meat processing facility. 83.42% 488
Please comment on your response 206
Answered 585
Skipped 33

Summary of Further Information Responses Provided

The following graphs take the additional feedback provided at the end questionnaire, by 235 respondents. The questionnaire asked for any other information which they felt would be useful for consideration, in terms of the viability of MSUs.

Figure 15. Summary of preferences given as additional information
Figure 15. Summary of preferences given as additional information

In terms of Figure 15, it should be emphasised that the questionnaire was not set up as to be MSU versus Micro-abattoir. It is, however, pertinent for individuals who believe that fixed, micro-abattoirs should be considered over the MSU option (17 individuals). The vast majority of respondents providing additional information were extremely supportive of MSUs (217). However, this should also be read with caution since in reality it seems reasonable to assume that what respondents are really supportive of is a local kill service, which addresses the concerns, costs and lost business opportunities, which the current abattoir arrangement in Scotland is giving them. This is very much borne out by the views given by those expressing their support for MSUs, summarised in the following figure.

Figure 16. Summary of views given by those supportive of MSUs.
Figure 16. Summary of views given by those supportive of MSUs.

The full range of reasons is given in the figure below for the 17 respondents providing further information and views on their preferences, for micro/fixed abattoirs.

Figure 17. Summary of additional information given for parties preferring micro-fixed abattoirs to MSUs.
Figure 17. Summary of additional information given for parties preferring micro-fixed abattoirs to MSUs.

Further points of consideration that arose during a Meeting with the NFUS (Less Favoured Areas)

The focus of the meeting was around the potential viability and demand for MSUs, however some miscellaneous points of interest were also made, which are summarised below:

  • An EU-funded trial using an English MSU was carried out in Skye in the 1990s, near Portree, further details provided earlier in this report.
  • It was commented that Orkney was an interesting case in point, having the highest density of cattle in Europe and would require an MSU to visit weekly. It was considered that whilst there was a demand for slaughter provision on Orkney, there was limited interest on Orkney to re-vist a static abattoir. The representative was aware that there there was some limited demand for an MSU on Orkney, but he believed that the vast majority of farmers would choose to continue to transport cattle down to Dingwall. A meeting was also held in Orkney (see section 5.4.4 of the main report)
  • In Shetland it was mentioned that a vet flies out to the islands every two days – this was given as an example of the costs that are incurred, however, it should be noted that this is addressed to a great extent later in the report, following discussions with FSS, where it was commented that abattoirs with low throughputs receive 85% discounts of OV and MHI fees.
  • Regulatory burden stated consistently as a barrier (including incoming CCTV requirement).
  • In addition concerns were raised about the ability to get licenced slaughterman/ OV willing to travel.
  • It was commented that the Forestry Commission used cold stores, and there was a question about whether this infrastructure could be used collaboratively with future MSU operations.
  • There was concern regarding the potential impacts on small and island abattoirs (mull and Shetland specifically mentioned), there was a preference for any money that might be available to be spent on the existing infrastructure, rather than for an MSU, which might impact on the viability.
  • It was stated that the Mull abattoir services the mainland as well as several other islands. However, it was reported that there were significant waits for the service, therefore indicating that there is sufficient demand for extra provisions.
  • Would prefer to see more local, rather than mobile abattoirs, it was mentioned that there was more demand for local meat e.g. through the co-op, etc. However, there were approximately 5 or 6 farmers that would consider using an MSU.

Summary of ad hoc discussions with farmers

Table 21. Summary of ad hoc discussions with farmers about MSUs
Farmer Description Comments about MSUs
Cattle, sheep and pig farmer, Kincardineshire. 150 head of cattle, 100 breeding ewes and a small number of pigs. Very supportive of the MSU concept, and would use one, if it offered its service in the locality.

Wants a private kill and cannot get this service from the local abattoir, which is located in close proximity to the farm – instead is currently sending animals to Grantown-on-Spey (90 miles).

Animal welfare is of huge importance and does not want to send animals over this kind of distance.

This farmer runs a high health scheme farm and although would be happy for an MSU to come to his farm, would not want to act as a hub for others unless they were also of a comparable high health status.

Charged £75 to kill a pig recently, plus a £60 haulage charge to Grantown, plus £50 for the carcase (sides) to come back. i.e. £185 in total.
Goat Farm, Moray Farm goats, sheep and alpacas.

Send animals to Scotbeef in Inverurie (40 miles) and Dingwall
(67 miles).

Their breed of goats (a premium brand) do not travel well and are easily stressed. The quality of meat from stressed animals is reduced. They had 350 to 400 animals slaughtered last year.

Although supportive of micro abattoirs and MSUs, is not sure how the latter would work for them – they have a continuous, weekly kill requirement, which may mean that a micro abattoir would make more sense. In total are looking at 12 animals being killed per week. If a docking station-MSU system could service this then there would be interest.

Commented that once the new Scotbeef abattoir opens and the old one closes, they will no longer be taking goats. At the moment they are acting as a conduit for many farmers’ private kill, because of the frequency of animals being sent for slaughter.

Commented that Miller’s at Grantown are stopping private kills. Also mentioned that there are 26,000 farms in Scotland less than 10 hectares (not sure how many with animals), but that the country is a nation of smallholders, with many benefits that result from this, but the closure of abattoirs is a having a huge impact.
Sheep farmer, Moray Sheep farmer with 200 head. Nearest slaughterhouse is in Grantown-on Spey (Miller’s), which do not do lamb. Sends animals to Scotbeef in Inverurie (40 miles) and Dingwall (67 miles).

It costs circa £160 per animal for haualge and kill. Lambs are around 50% of this cost.

Local farmers are supportive of the MSU model (the farmer has investigated this as a potential operator in the future).
Sheep farmer, Caithness A sheep farmer who has investigated the potential for establishing an MSU and who currently sends animals to Dingwall for private kill (50 miles journey).

Has engaged with many farmers in the surrounding area and there is significant interest in using an MSU.
Cattle and pig farmer, Gigha This farmer is currently sending cattle and pigs to an abattoir in Carlisle, which although it is further than those in the central belt offers a lower cost service, because of a relationship (friends/family) which means that carcases are returned at no/little cost. The abattoir charges a total of £500 per carcase returned, broken down as £40 transport, £70 kill, £350 for carcase plus the levy. The cost would be more or less the same to Paisley, plus the cost of getting the carcase returned. Pigs cost £250 each for the kill and carcase, excluding transport costs (to/from Carluke). The farmer believes that he and other farmers could finish their animals on grass in the west, rather than in the east coast, to tie in with an MSU sevice.

The farmer would be very much interested in using the services of an MSU, and has suggested that a docking station located in the Kintyre peninsula, not far from where the ferry arrives (Tayinloan) would be one which he and many of his neighbouring farmers would be very interested in using. Such a location would also mean that it is well suited for farmers further to the south (e.g. Campbeltown area) to use.
Cattle and sheep farmer, Borders This farmer runs a 600-acre mixed organic, animal/arable farm, with on-farm butchers. They are highly motivated to support local services where possible. They have 140 sucklers, 30 free-range sows and are using store lamb and mutton ewes 450 lambs per year). Their weekly need, for an MSU to service, would be 8 pigs, 8 lambs and two cows. The abattoir they use currently charges £300/week for the kill of these animals, and the delivery back to the farm of the carcases in a refrigerated vehicle. Their delivery company charges them a total of £100 per week, the costs shared with other neighbouring farms.

They are currently sending cattle to Jewitts Abattoir (near Middlesborough), which although it is further than others in Scotland, provides a dedicated organic line and a good service. However, it also takes around 3 hours to travel to the abattoir, and a more local option would be welcomed. They currently receive carcases back from this abattoir which are in turn butchered at the farm for sale to high-end restaurants across the UK. They are sending between 80,000 to 100,000 Kg of meat to their butchery for processing every year. They have their own hanging room and chill facilities, but would need to build a separate chill for an MSU service.

They believe that meat quality is greatly enhanced by reducing the miles travelled, and therefore stress and would welcome an MSU to their farm. They would be less interested in being a docking station for other farmers to use, because of biosecurity concerns, but would be happy to take their animals to well-known, trusted, neighbouring farms for slaughter, or to the nearest mart at St Boswalds (for example), 45 miles away.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot