The only small abattoir in Yorkshire Dales, McIntyre meats, is set to close on March 27.

The closure of the family-run business, which is located in Prime Minster Rishi Sunak’s own constituency of Wensleydale, may negatively impact the local rural community and food enterprises.

The abattoir has been operating for 23 years, and has 1,800 customers representing a range of meat businesses that supply local people, retailers and the hospitality sector.

The news follows the closure of numerous small abattoirs over the past two years, including: Tottingworth in East Sussex, Black Brow in Cumbria, Mettrick’s in Derbyshire and more recently, Long Compton in the Cotswolds.

Each abattoir closure results in customers being forced to travel further afield, and applies pressure to remaining small abattoirs who are now trying to accommodate increasing numbers.

Chair of the Abattoirs Sector Group, John Mettrick, said: “When a business is experiencing low returns, and on top of that, the effects of poorly designed regulation, then it’s not surprising when they decide enough is enough.

“This is why the reform of regulations for small abattoirs is so important. It’s inevitable that due to location and the value of land on some existing abattoir sites, that some will close due to the commercial value for housing or other land uses.

“Whilst regulation reform will continue to be a focus, a fund to build new small abattoirs to service the local meat supply chain will be needed in addition to the Smaller Abattoir Fund that can only help existing premises.”

Knock-on effects

Being the only small abattoir in the locality, many suppliers and business owners rely on the services at McIntyre Meats to keep their own businesses ticking.

McIntyre Meats customer, Graham Bottley, said: “I use the abattoir to kill my mutton wethers that I supply directly to customers. The mutton is very popular and ships all around the country (and has supplied Michelin-starred restaurants).

“Without a local abattoir, that element of my business would be far more difficult, and I may be forced to stop doing that entirely. The closure of the abattoir will have a significant knock-on effect on numerous small businesses like mine, butchers, independent supermarkets and more.” 

Head of Policy and Campaigns for the Sustainable Food Trust, Megan Perry, said:

“The wide-scale loss of local meat supply chains is pushing the UK towards an increasingly centralised, consolidated system, dominated by supermarkets and a few, very large slaughtering and processing operations.

“Animals are being taken on increasingly long journeys, in some cases as many as 200mi, to be slaughtered. This is bad for animal welfare, bad for the environment and bad for customers who want to buy local meat.”

“The closure of small abattoirs is a cross-cutting issue and is incompatible with the government’s public health, environmental and food security agendas. Concentrating meat supply into fewer and larger operators could spell disaster.”