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Potential closures of UK poultry plants could threaten food supplies

The British Poultry Council warns that forcing meat plants to close due to COVID-19 could put the UK's food supply in jeopardy.

3 September 2020, at 8:03am

The British poultry meat industry is working incredibly hard to protect our food heroes who have gone above and beyond to keep this country running amidst the biggest crisis of our lifetime. The COVID-19 outbreak at meat plants demonstrates that no amount of preparation and vigilance can guarantee complete protection against COVID-19. We have to prioritise the health of people in our community, but we also need to safeguard food supply and the welfare of our animals.

British Poultry Council, Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said:

“The UK rears and slaughters around 20 million birds every week (over 95 percent of these are chickens) with the majority being processed through a small number of large premises (each with a capacity of 2 million+ birds per week). As an efficient sector, there is very little spare capacity when a large slaughterhouse is forced to shut down. Losing a large slaughterhouse will not only interrupt our national food supply, create shortages, and job losses at a time when we can least afford it, but also result in bird welfare challenges on a significant scale.

We are working closing with Defra and other relevant authorities to ensure reasonable steps are put in place to minimise welfare issues and maintain food supply. We must ensure that poultry meat plants compromised by a COVID-19 outbreak are able to maintain throughput where possible, even if it means having skeleton staff onsite.”