Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has granted a temporary derogation allowing pigs from the Brechin plant to be processed at a plant in England.

Under normal circumstances, the pigs would have to be processed in Scotland to be eligible for the ‘Specially Selected Pork’ brand.

QMS has been working closely with representatives of Quality Pork Limited (QPL), Tulip Ltd, Scottish Pig Producers (SSP) and Scotlean to support the pork industry to minimise the disruption caused by the on-going shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

CO2 shortage

The Brechin abattoir run by QPL – a collaboration involving SPP, Scotlean and Tulip (its customer) – is currently unable to operate as a result of the acute shortage of CO2, which is needed for processing pigs.

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of QMS, said: “QPL made us aware of the challenges they anticipated at an early stage and have kept us updated daily on the position at the Brechin plant.

While every effort has been made by QPL to secure supplies of CO2, the plant ran out yesterday and processing has had to stop.

“The processing capacity at Brechin accounts for around two-thirds of the pigs slaughtered in Scotland and QMS is keen to support the Scottish pig and pork industry to limit the impact of the temporary closure of this abattoir, including any animal welfare implications.”

Clarke added: “It is particularly unfortunate that the Brechin plant has faced this challenge so soon after the re-opening of the site which had to be closed as a result of a fire last year.”

Temporary derogation

Following consultation with the companies involved, the Scottish SPCA and wider industry representatives including full exploration of alternatives, QMS has decided to grant a temporary derogation.

This will allow pigs eligible for the Specially Selected Pork brand, which would have been slaughtered at Brechin, to be slaughtered in an abattoir run by Tulip at Ashton.

The derogation is subject to stringent conditions and will be reviewed weekly.

As well as sending some pigs south of the border for slaughter, QPL has also introduced other contingency measures.

These include working in collaboration with other pork production companies in Scotland which are now taking some of the pigs previously destined for Brechin.

“QMS has very carefully considered the wider implications of this decision and also sought advice relating to animal welfare from the Scottish SPCA,” said Clarke.

The shortage of CO2 affecting the Brechin premises – which is responsible for over 60% of the Scottish pig slaughter capacity – has created an exceptional set of circumstances.

“Our decision to grant a temporary derogation reflects that exceptional situation and has been taken in the best interests of the Scottish pig industry and the Specially Selected Pork brand.”