Mobile abattoirs - viability and sustainability: report

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

6.0 Engagement With Butchers, Abattoirs And Meat Wholesalers

Box 4. Key Findings from engagement with butchers, abattoirs and meat wholesalers

The majority of butchers engaged with felt that MSUs would be able to provide value added services to them and the farming community, and that there would be significant demand from the latter.

The larger mainland abattoirs did not feel that MSUs would be a threat to their business models.

The smaller island abattoirs have a number of concerns and issues about support being given by government to any future MSU operators and the potential of these to damage business.

6.1 Overview

Stakeholder engagement took place with abattoirs/meat wholesalers and butchers, supported by the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesales (SAMW) and the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association (SFMTA), the latter operating as Scottish Craft Butchers. The following sections provide the key outcomes from this, with Appendix 3 providing the detailed response data.

6.2 Butchers and Scottish Craft Butchers

Scottish Craft Butchers represents butchers (including those associated with abattoirs) in Scotland and has approximately 400 members. Following a meeting with the organisation in Perth a news article on this feasibility study was written and sent to members in July 2019, to raise awareness of the project. This was emailed to members, published on the website and issued as a hard copy. Following this, an online survey was later emailed to all members. There were also phone discussions with butchers (and as discussed in the farming engagement section of this report, there were a number of conversations with farmers that also providing butchering services as part of their farm shops).

There were 23 responses to the survey, with detailed anonymised results shown in Appendix 3. The majority of respondents were positive about the introduction of an MSU in Scotland, with an indication of the outcomes shown below.

Figure 3. Questionnaire response on demand.
Figure 3. Questionnaire response on demand.

The above (Figure 3) indicates that, in terms of whether there would be customer demand for locally sourced traceable meat:

  • 15 of the 23 respondents (65%) answered “yes”;
  • 4 (17%) stated “depends”; and
  • 4 stated “no”.
Figure 4. Questionnaire response on the potential to provide a value-added service
Figure 4. Questionnaire response on the potential to provide a value-added service

The above indicates that, in terms of whether mobile abattoirs have the potential to provide farmers and butchers with a value added service, by providing private kill and traceable meat products:

  • 14 (61%) answered “yes”;
  • (7) 30% answered “no”[25]; and
  • 2 (9%) answered “Don’t know.”

In addition to the above nearly 80% (18 respondents) did not have any concerns that an MSU would have an impact on the viability of their current businesses. Collaborative opportunities were commented on in the survey, with the following identified as being of interest through responses from 14 companies:

  • Providing a retail outlet for local meat products originating from animals slaughtered at a mobile abattoir (6 respondents)
  • Providing staff at agreed times, who will provide a butchering service for the mobile abattoir (7 respondents)
  • Butchering and retail of carcasses provided from a mobile abattoir (6 respondents)
  • Providing chill facilities for carcasses from the mobile abattoir (4 respondents)
  • Providing a site/location for chill facilities - for carcasses from the mobile abattoir (4 respondents)
  • Providing a docking station, where a mobile abattoir could hook into existing infrastructure (details discussed and agreed e.g. this could be for electricity and, water connections, access to drains, chill facilities) (4 respondents).

6.3 Abattoirs and SAMW

SAMW facilitated engagement with its 20 members (abattoirs and wholesalers – note that its membership does not include the island abattoirs, or Downfield and Hardiesmill). A meeting with SAMW Council members took place in September 2019 and feedback from a number of abattoir operators was provided at this. In addition, SAMW emailed the link to an on-line survey asking for views about the potential of MSUs.

Individual, direct engagement (meeting/calls) also took place with the following:

  • Hardiesmill Abattoir
  • Mull Abattoir
  • Munro’s, Dingwall
  • ABP Perth
  • Scottish Island Abattoirs Association (SIAA)
  • Mull Abattoir

Contact was also made with Downfield Abattoir, however no response was obtained.

The view from the SAMW Council meeting was that the niche market and approach in terms of scale and geographical targets meant that the development of a mobile abattoir service was not viewed as a threat to the SAMW members. Interest was expressed by one of the members in terms of potentially being involved in a future MSU service.

The island abattoirs had a number of reservations about an MSU and the potential impacts on their viability, with key feedback in this respect being:

  • There are concerns that MSUs could attract public subsidies which could otherwise be earmarked for the island abattoirs.
  • The island abattoirs are fragile in terms of income generation and profitability, and there are concerns that MSUs could divert animals and income streams from them.



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