Pig slaughtering will grind to a standstill at Brechin abattoir on Monday when supplies of vital CO2 gas used in the stunning process run out.
Around 6,000 pigs a week are processed at the £10 million facility which is run by Quality Pork Limited (QPL), a company formed by a collaboration between pig farmers and the major processor Tulip Ltd. From Monday farmers will have to keep hold stock on farm after seasonal maintenance shutdowns in C)2 plants have left the UK with only one major producer in action, leading to a severe shortage of supplies.
Scottish Pig Producers chief executive Andy McGowan said every avenue was being explored to resolve the crisis, including appeals to manufacturers for priority supplies by Scotland’s chief vet and Food Standards Scotland.
“The challenge we’re having is getting a date from gas suppliers to commit to when they can deliver,” he said.
“We have a bit of slack on farms to hold pigs for a while with makeshift arrangements so it’s not an impending disaster but as time goes on it will become increasingly difficult to hold them all on farms.”
Mr McGowan said gas stunning was the method preferred by retailers and the top priority for his company was animal welfare
“But the commercial side is important and the concern is that if retailers can’t source the domestic product, they will have to switch to imported and once they do that its often not for a week but a month and then we’re losing not just the immediate but the aftermath.
“Its very dependent on how long it goes on. A few days would be manageable.”
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I am obviously concerned, we are investigating every avenue and officials are working on this and keeping me informed hour-by-hour.”
Brechin abattoir reopened in November after a major blaze destroyed parts of the modern plant.