Brechin Abattoir Takeover Boosts Pig Sector Confidence

The cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future of Scottish pig processing has been lifted following the purchase of Brechin abattoir by Browns Food Group.

The specialist pig slaughterhouse, which employs around 100 staff, has been owned by Quality Pork Ltd (QPL), in a close collaboration between the two farmer cooperatives, Scottish Pig Producers (SPP) and Scotlean, together with Pilgrim’s Pride UK.

However, Pilgrim’s, which has been the sole customer for the pigmeat processed at Brechin, gave notice last year that the arrangement was “unsustainable” following a downturn in the pig industry and the abattoir’s loss of a valuable Chinese export licence after an outbreak of Covid at the plant.

That licence has not been reinstated by China despite the plant getting the all-clear by public health authorities a few weeks after the outbreak, and it is generally believed this is related to ongoing political tensions between China and the UK.

In a statement Dumfriesshire-based Browns said: “This is an exciting new development for both companies which will ensure a promising future for Scottish pork while supporting the existing established markets.”

SPP chief executive Andy McGowan said the new arrangement would mean business as usual for Scottish pig farmers who are currently supplying the plant with around 4000 pigs per week.

“The announcement lifts the question marks surrounding the future of the site  and brings about simplicity,” he said.

“It’s not a magic bullet in the current pig crisis, but the worst situation we had was a very difficult financial period with pigs backed up on farms, and also  question marks over Brechin.

“That’s when people decide to get out because they can’t see the point of it.

“While the short term problems remain, we now have some certainty around the longer term and that gives people a reason to stick in.

“We have been working with Browns for many years and they are a really good fit.”

Martin Morgan, executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers said: “Browns Food Group has a fantastic track record of supporting the Scottish red meat industry and we are delighted that they will be applying their business acumen, strength and experience to the development of this important sector.”

The Browns Food Group was established in Biggar in 1885 and owns the well-known Scottish brand Hall’s, which it bought in 2013, as well as a large cooked meat factory which was completed in 2014.

Products include pre-sliced and whole joints of cooked meat, convenience foods and a variety of delicatessen items as well as salmon and poultry products.

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