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CO2 shortages could plunge poultry sector into fresh crisis

Chicken on a slaughterline

POTENTIAL SHORTAGES of CO2 caused by fertiliser factory shutdowns are putting fresh pressure on the poultrymeat supply chain.

Processing plants, already suffering from significant labour problems, face a shortage of CO2 gas, which is used to stun birds before slaughter.

See also: Labour shortages prompt fears for future of British turkeys

The British Poultry Council has urged the government to intervene to ensure supply, saying that “ultimately, no CO2 means no throughput”.

And Ranjit Singh, owner of 2 Sisters Food Group and Bernard Matthews, has said the shutdowns represented “another massive body blow for the UK food and meat sector”.

Last week, two plants owned by CF Fertilisers were shut down after soaring wholesale natural gas prices made production unprofitable.

Stunning

Those two sites produce about 60% of the UK’s CO2 gas as a by-product that the poultry sector relies on to stun birds before slaughter.

CO2 is also required for on-farm culling, a last resort used if processing plants cannot receive birds.

And the gas is also pumped into meat packaging to help extend product shelf lives. 

It is understood moves are being made to prioritise the supply within the food sector to abattoirs.

The Times reports that the government is considering two ways to support the production of CO2, either subsidising gas prices for the fertiliser plants or sourcing the gas from elsewhere.

Welfare, food supply and food waste issues

Richard Griffiths, BPC chief executive, said: When birds cannot be slaughtered and must be kept on-farm, there is the potential for welfare, food supply and food waste issues to arise.

“If vital sectors like the poultry meat industry face CO2 shortages that compromise their performance, it will very quickly become an issue of national security.

“We hope this can be avoided through swift Government action.”

Mr Singh added: “There is potential for massive food waste across the board.

‘Crisis’

“This is clearly a National Security issue, and unlike the Labour supply crisis, where the Government response to our sector has been disappointing, to say the least, it has to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

“I’d like to see CO2 supplies prioritised for the food sector so UK supply can be maintained and for the government to support these fertiliser plants who are saying they’ve switched off because of the rising price of natural gas.

“It really beggars’ belief when such a key infrastructure operation can arbitrarily decide to switch off the taps because of price inflation.

“It is irresponsible and catastrophic for our sector.

“We can’t just down tools because of inflation.

“In my businesses, you have to roll up your sleeves as best you can and tackle it head-on. Giving up and saying ‘inflation is too high’ is not an option.”