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Should Butchers Be Added To The UK's Shortage Occupation List?

19th March 2024


Even before the pandemic, UK meat processing companies were contending with a 10-15% shortfall in skilled workers but now the gap seems to have become even wider. From the British Meat Processors Association's perspective, the government must act fast to attract skilled migrants to cover the gap in order to prevent a significant disruption in the supply chain. "It takes up to two years of training before a new recruit to the meat processing industry has the skill to work safely and productively on different parts of the production line.

The job is physically demanding, requiring strength and discipline as well as specialist knowledge of various areas ranging from knife skills, animal anatomy and use of processing equipment through to an understanding of food quality, safety standards and traceability. It’s also work that is difficult and often impossible to automate, which means we always need people," said the association in a press release.
Beyond the pool of UK workers, the shortfall can then only be made up by bringing in skilled workers from abroad. However the current Shortage Occupation List doesn’t include the category of worker we need, so BMPA has been lobbying Government to add ‘Butcher’ to that list.

"The ‘Butcher’ category is wider than one might imagine and actually includes every type of skill that we’re missing. It includes slaughtermen as well as the boning, cutting and trimming specialists that prepare carcases for storage, processing and sale. The British meat processing industry is a strategically important cornerstone of the UK food supply chain and we can see an opportunity to strengthen it by offering career opportunities to both British and overseas workers, all of whom are equally vital.

But in order to do that, we need the category of ‘Butcher’ to be added to the Shortage Occupation List," said BMPA.

However in Autumn 2023 it was ruled by the Migration Advisory Committee that Butchers from overseas will not be able to come to Britain to work via a special visa for workers in industries with labour shortages

The Committee published the outcome to its Review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Butchers were recommended to be excluded from the list, on the basis that employers should do more to attract local people to the roles.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) said the decision was disappointing and the reasoning made little sense.

The recommendation to not add Butchers to the SOL is based on a view that they are “unconvinced that employers in the occupation have done enough to overcome challenges in attracting workers from the domestic population.”

If you work in the UK meat processing industry and find yourself affected by these staff shortages, we have an extremely experienced division here at Approach Personnel who specialise in Butchery and Abattoir roles. We have a nationwide database of candidates who we can connect you with and offer comprehensive support throughout the hiring process. To speak to us about any staffing requirements contact -

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