International supplies of carbon dioxide gas have become so low that it has forced the largest pig abattoir in Scotland, UK, to close its doors.
Based in Brechin, Angus county, Quality Pork processes 6,000 pigs a week, which is 60% of Scotland’s total pig kill. The company uses CO2 gas to stun the pigs.
However, stocks of the gas became so low the plant had to close its doors and with international supplies not looking likely to increase soon, the abattoir could be closed for some time.
Pig welfare issues due to carbon dioxide shortage
The shortage has been caused due to 5 of the big factories that produce carbon dioxide gas as a by-product in northern Europe are down due to maintenance. Concerns are being voiced by the industry that there could be some pig welfare issues as a result of overcrowding on farms and there could be a potential national shortage of pig meat.
Overcrowding of pens is a real threat of the shutdown of the slaughter plant in Angus, Scotland. Photo: Hans Prinsen
Scottish Pig Producers chief executive Andy McGowan, said: “We can send some pigs to England, to our sister factories at Tulip. But that is not a long-term solution as they too, are seeing CO2 shortages.”
He warned that supermarkets could feel the effects of the gas shortages from next week, with fresh meat the first to be affected. Processed products such as bacon, sausages and ham could run low later. It is also feared the shortage will soon take effect in other industries such as poultry processing and even beer production.
Critical impact on pig slaughter
NFU Scotland’s Pigs and Poultry, and Animal Health and Welfare policy manager Penny Middleton, said: “The shortage of CO2 is having a critical impact on the slaughter of pigs and poultry, where gas stunning is the preferred method of slaughter for welfare reasons.
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“The processing plant at Brechin has already announced that it will not be able to take any more pigs, a decision that will impact heavily on pig units reliant on being able to get pigs away. Any disruption to that flow can result in welfare issues and overcrowding.
“Given the expectation of animal welfare problems on pig and poultry units NFUS feels that it is vital that CO2 supplies are reserved and directed to those plants in need.”