A massive shortage of slaughterhouse butchers has led to a backlog of pigs on UK farms.
Pig farmer Sophie Hope told Euronews that the industry is on the brink of disaster unless the British government acts soon.
With EU workers leaving the UK due to Brexit and the COVID pandemic, there is a shortage of butchers in processing plants.
It has led to a backlog of pigs and as space is running out, some farmers have had to euthanize the animals rather than sell them for their meat.
“It’s been a struggle, I’m not going to lie, the cause of some sleepless nights and anxious days,” said Sophie, owner of AA Farms in Gloucestershire. “There are so many pigs on the farm and there is nowhere else to put them.”
He would like the government to relax visa restrictions for European workers with the skills to solve the problem, or pig farmers will be forced to incinerate thousands of animals.
“The biggest problem is here right now, it’s actually been building for several months already and now we are in a critical phase. We need to get the butchers to the processing plants to overcome that hog build-up,” Hope emphasized.
According to the National Pig Association, about 80% of qualified slaughterhouse butchers are from Europe.
The shortage of foreign workers has also affected the other half of Sophie’s business, poultry production.
His hens lay fertilized eggs for farmers who raise chickens for meat, but the blockage of the supply chain has meant that he has had to dump hundreds of thousands of eggs.
“I employ 20 people here, they work really hard, day after day. Early in the morning and they work hard to make these birds happy and produce a lot of eggs, and collect them all. To end up seeing these eggs thrown away is so demoralizing. for all of us, “Sophie said.
Part of the reason the pig and poultry sectors have been hit the hardest by the EU shortage of migrant workers is that these animals are growing faster.
Beef and lamb breeders also fear that later on they will also start to struggle as a result of the EU worker shortage.
The government has said it is aware of the problem and is working closely with farmers to find a solution.