Coronavirus: Butchers now allowed to process pork during lockdown

The Agriculture Minister said butchers were an essential part of the supply chain in New Zealand for pork.
The Agriculture Minister said butchers were an essential part of the supply chain in New Zealand for pork. Photo credit: Getty

Butchers will now be allowed to process pork for supply to retailers operating during the COVID-19 lockdown - however they still won't be allowed to open to the public.

On Wednesday, NZ Pork said the Government's decision to exclude independent butchers from the essential business list would cause an animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector.

It said it would likely result in the sector having no place to house up to 5000 surplus pigs on farms every week.

"By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue," said chief executive of NZ Pork David Baines.

However the Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has announced that butchers will now be able process pork - but only for supply to supermarkets or other processors or retailers that are open.

He said while allowing butchers to open their shops for retail customers was considered, the risk of spreading COVID-19 was too great.

"The aim in alert level 4 is to minimise retail outlets being open in order to minimise risk to public health," O'Connor explained. 

"This decision maintains that aim while also ensuring there are no unintended adverse impacts on animals."

He said butchers were an essential part of the supply chain in New Zealand for pork. 

"At present, there is not enough capacity to hold surplus pigs on farms or pig carcasses in processing facilities, which could create an animal welfare issue."

"We need them to operate to ensure that pigs can continue to be processed and are not backing up on farms leading to animal welfare issues."

Butchers who choose to operate will need to follow health guidelines for distancing in the workplace, to ensure staff safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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