It’s not that the UK government is doing nothing, but there are some bottlenecks that cannot be resolved so quickly. Due to the shortage of butchers in the UK, 800 work visas were offered in October, but pigs are still being phased out because they cannot be slaughtered. To end the misery, UK meat producers have now started exporting carcasses, i.e. slaughtered animals, to the EU. There they are then processed and packaged before returning to the UK.
It might sound absurd, but otherwise the meat processing industry in the Kingdom can’t help it. The head of the association recently told the Financial Times that meat from Britain is being transported to Ireland and will soon also be transported to the Netherlands. He estimates that a million British pigs will be treated this way.
The shortage of butchers is one of the many shortcomings currently facing the UK. Shortage is the buzzword in German: bottleneck. There are many bottlenecks in the UK in many areas of daily life, some more visible, some less. Brexit? Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government say it has nothing to do with it.
But how do you explain the bottleneck with butchers? According to the British Meat Processors Association, there is a shortage of between 10,000 and 12,000 butchers in the UK. There are two main reasons cited in the industry: Brexit and Corona. Last year alone around 200,000 EU citizens left the UK, many of them from Eastern Europe. After Brexit it became much more difficult for them to work in the UK.
If you want to do this as an EU citizen, you now need a visa. However, the process is complicated and time consuming, so most foreign butchers may not be able to start working until the end of November. It is also not known how many butchers wish to come to the UK, as visas are limited to six months. Then the butchers should return to their homeland.
From an industry perspective, this is not a long term solution. And so exporting carcasses to Ireland should only be the start, even if it costs a lot of money. According to the Association of the Meat Processing Industry, the additional cost per truck is 1,500 pounds (the equivalent of about 1,750 euros). This includes transport and costs for Brexit-related checks at the EU border.
Until now, British meat has only been checked when it is exported to the European Union. There are no in-depth checks when returning to the UK, at least not yet. British customs officials are not expected to closely monitor imports from the EU until January. It is quite possible that it will take longer for British steaks to end up in UK supermarkets.