United Kingdom

Fresh meat supply will be slashed within days as energy crisis hits supply chain 

Meat production is set to be scaled back within days, industry leaders have warned.

Chicken and pork could vanish from supermarket shelves as the energy crisis hits key elements of the supply chain.

The traditional Christmas dinner is also at risk, with the number of turkeys available for shoppers set to be down drastically.

George Eustice, the Secretary of State for Food and Rural Affairs, is set to hold crunch talks with representatives from retailers and food producers today as fears grow over the effects of soaring energy prices.

The spike has seen two US-owned fertiliser manufacturing plants shut down in recent days because they cannot operate at a profit. 

The sites, run by CF Industries, are responsible for supplying 60 per cent of Britain’s CO2 gas – which is essential for food production and packaging.

Because the gas is used for the humane slaughter of chickens and pigs, the entire meat processing system quickly grinds to a halt if deliveries are halted. 

Meat production is set to be scaled back within days, industry leaders have warned. Chicken and pork could vanish from supermarket shelves as the energy crisis hits key elements of the supply chain

The spike has seen two US-owned fertiliser manufacturing plants shut down in recent days because they cannot operate at a profit. The sites, run by CF Industries, are responsible for supplying 60 per cent of Britain’s CO2 gas – which is essential for food production and packaging

The gas is also used for everything from putting fizz in soft drinks to creating the holes in crumpets. It is also key to creating packaging that keeps cheese and salad fresh for longer.

Chief executive of the Food & Drink Federation, Ian Wright, warned shoppers will start to see gaps on shelves within the next week or so.

‘Of course, that’s concerning because we’re beginning to get into the period when warehouses begin to build up their stocks, ready for the push to Christmas a few weeks later,’ he said.

Stressing the urgency of the problem, Iceland boss Richard Walker said: ‘This is no longer about whether Christmas will be OK. 

This is more about keeping the wheels turning and the lights on so we can actually get to Christmas.’

Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association said: ‘My members are saying anything between five, ten and 15 days of supply remain... we’re two weeks away from seeing some real impacts on the shelves.’ 

Chief executive of the Food & Drink Federation, Ian Wright, warned shoppers will start to see gaps on shelves within the next week or so

Chaos in the supply chain has also prompted welfare concerns for more than 100,000 pigs meant for slaughter that will now remain on farms.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, owner of Bernard Matthews and the 2 Sisters Food Group, said the CO2 crisis – along with staff shortages – would inevitably affect the supply of Christmas turkeys.

‘The CO2 issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point, it really does – that’s poultry, beef, pork, as well as the wider food industry,’ he warned.

‘With our sector already compromised by lack of labour, this potentially tips us over the edge.’

Crash fears over longer lorry shifts 

Letting lorry drivers work longer hours to safeguard food supplies could make Britain’s roads more dangerous, ministers were warned last night.

Staff shortages have already hit the availability of everything from milkshakes at McDonald’s to chicken at Nando’s. The Government is now thought to be considering an extension to changes made in July which mean drivers can be on the road for ten hours, up from nine.

Due to end next month, the new rules could instead stay in place until February.

But Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association said longer hours meant ‘more tired drivers... which isn’t good for the safety of anyone’. He added that most bosses ignored the change to keep staff safe. ‘It’s a short-term fix which doesn’t fix anything much,’ he said.

A government spokesman said ministers were ‘taking steps to support [firms]... including streamlining the process for new drivers and increasing the number of driving tests’.

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