Thursday, 29 April 2021
By Bethan Wilkins
The long-term trend of declining pig abattoir numbers in England has accelerated recently. The latest figures show that just 93 slaughterhouses killed pigs in 2020, 10 fewer than in 2019 and 22 fewer than in 2018. The number is now half what it was in the year 2000.
The industry continues to consolidate, with the 11 largest plants (each of which slaughtered over 100,000 head) accounting for 92% of total slaughter, up from 91% the year before. The top eight abattoirs maintained an 83% share of the English kill; the gain in percentage share came from the smallest three in the group.
There were only 12 specialist pig abattoirs operating last year, two fewer than the year before. These plants still accounted for over 75% of the throughput. Of the 11 largest plants, nine of them were specialist ones, where at least 95% of the animals processed were pigs.
While consolidation may bring some advantages regarding efficiency, concentration of slaughter also presents a risk if one or more of the large plants are compromised. At the end of 2020 we saw pigs backing up on farms when some of the key players saw throughput curtailed due to coronavirus-related difficulties. Situations like that one could become more commonplace, even without unusual events like coronavirus, if the pig herd continues to expand against a background of declining processing sites.
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