Meat Industry Brexit Impact Report

British Meat Processors Association
British Meat Processors Association

Meat industry workforce

Finding skilled people with good knife and butchery skills to work in abattoirs and meat processing plants is not an easy task.

Meat processing companies are found across the whole of the UK but are usually located close to pastureland and livestock farmers. They are often in areas where population is less dense and unemployment is low. This means that the local labour supply is often not sufficient to meet the needs of producers.

Meat processing in the UK employs around 97,000 people of which approximately 62% are EU nationals.

As the demand for more skilled people has risen, it has not been possible to source additional people from the UK. Migrant workers have not replaced UK workers but, instead, have added to them and been instrumental in allowing the industry to become more efficient, flexible and export focused.

Meat processing in the UK employs around 97,000 people of which approximately 62% are EU27 nationals. Some producers report workforces of up to 85% EU nationals. This has been the case for the last 15 years or more and EU workers are now an integral part of our food supply industry. It also reflects a general increase across the board in demand from UK customers for more boneless fresh meat cuts.

Why does the meat industry struggle to attract UK workers?

We often hear reports from our members of difficulty in recruiting UK workers despite comprehensive attempts to attract local labour via social media, advertising and recruitment drives in schools and job centres. There is often a lack of awareness of butchery as a career choice amongst school leavers, and the level of skill required to be a successful butcher.

A common barrier to British people taking up roles in meat processing can be an unwillingness to work in what is perceived to be a challenging environment. Most people, while they eat meat, find it difficult to work in its production partly because of the obvious aversion to the slaughter process but also because it is a physically demanding role.

Another factor affecting the industry’s ability to attract workers is the ready availability of other jobs in places like Amazon warehouses that can offer a similar wage but with less challenging working conditions.

It is a dilemma that is currently being mitigated by the ability of the industry to employ migrant workers. However, after Brexit, the ability to fill roles may be seriously compromised resulting in lower production, reduced competitiveness and higher prices for the UK consumer.

BMPA is working with Government to offer recommendations on how this potential shock to the labour force can be addressed. You can find details of our proposals in the Our Work and News Sections of this website.

Articles All articles

Pigs on a farm

Pig Crisis / 09 Mar /

Richard Cracknell

Industry / 04 Mar /

Man being nudged in the back

Diet: / 22 Oct /

Trade / 15 Oct /

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has written to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) requesting that it removes a reference to the ‘Global Burden of Disease’ (GBD) study from its five year strategy.

#meatindustry https://meatmanagement.com/bmpa-requests-fsa-remove-anti-meat-study-from-five-year-plan/

We've asked watchdog @foodgov to remove a reference to a flawed non-peer reviewed study from their new 5 year strategy.
It makes inaccurate claims about meat which have been challenged by academics and doctors, forcing the authors to revise their paper.
👉 https://bit.ly/3FX5PYI

The last 5 pages of this report explain the cool-headed, practical ways that UK & EU can continue to negotiate changes to the Brexit trade deal without having to blow the whole thing up.
There's a scheduled review of the terms in 2025 which everyone should be preparing for now.