THE meat industry is just days away from disaster after being hit with staff and supply chain shortages.

That’s the warning from a Bournemouth-based butcher and the National Farming Union (NFU) as the meat industry crisis intensifies.

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Paul Armstrong from Armstrong Butchers said: “My turkey supplier has no staff, he’s managed to hire three British workers but they didn’t last longer than 45-minutes.

“With things like Brexit and coronavirus affecting people’s chances to come over here, we’ve seen a massive loss of workers.

“It’s hard work and you’ve got to get your hands dirty, no-one wants to do it.

“I’ve already noticed a 20 per cent increase in the price of turkeys compared to last year and by the time we get - if we get - workers over here then we can expect turkeys to cost 40 per cent more than last Christmas.”

A number of issues has also led to a stark shortage in workers to butcher and pluck turkeys ahead of Christmas, leaving farmers grappling with the prospect of slaughtering their own animals.

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The NFU is currently lobbying the government to introduce new visas for foreign workers, most of whom come to the UK from Eastern Europe, in a bid to curtail the "impending disaster".

David George, communications manager for the south west at NFU, said: “The situation is not good.

“We’re in the position where we depend on labour from Europe and various circumstances have made working in the UK less appealing.

“We’ve not got a short window of opportunity to stop this impending disaster.”

The sector has been hit by the news that abattoirs are running out of carbon dioxide, used in the humane slaughter of animals.

As a nation we have become accustomed to an immediate supply of food and as a result there is ‘very little slack in the system’, David said.

The Poultry Processors Association revealed that in the UK we consume 50 million chickens a week - if these animals are not killed, a process which relies on Co2 to stun the birds, then farms will quickly be grappling with a lack of space.

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Pig farmers have also been hit by the shortage of CO2 - something that is leading to concern among butchers.

Paul said: “We’ve got 10 days worth of pork left in the industry - after that there will be no bacon sandwiches, no sausages.

“People also forget that bacon is one of our biggest exports so this could have a massive effect.”

In terms of CO2 shortages, David said: “There’s been a lot of concern widely about gas prices and that’s an issue for the government - there are things that can be done, largely out of control of the farmers or even the energy suppliers.

“There are things that can be done but it’s not going to be easy.

“We’ve just got to hope that in the next day or two they will come up with some kind of solution.

“We will have to keep our fingers very firmly crossed.”