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Ensuring a secure and trusted supply of British food post-Brexit

Food supply after Brexit

Shraddha Kaul of the of the British Poultry Council highlights the problems facing the poultry industry in the event of a no-deal Brexit or failure to secure a free trade agreement with the EU.

British poultry meat farmers and producers work incredibly hard to ensure that the food on our dinner tables and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all consumers at every price point. Poultry meat businesses do not receive subsidy through the Common Agricultural Policy and are committed to investing in Britain’s future productivity, enhancing skills and feeding the nation.

Nearly a billion birds are reared for food every year, providing half the meat that the country eats. Each one of us consumes around 26kg of poultry meat a year, equivalent to 13 whole birds on average. The UK’s demand for poultry grows by 2-3% every year. We directly employ 38,000 people, of which 22,800 are EU nationals. Almost three quarters of our imports (£2bn/year) and exports (£500m/ year) are from and to EU Member States.

Trading with the EU

Britons prefer chicken breast meat to dark cuts like wings, legs and thighs. Ensuring a continuation of trade with the EU is essential to balance the carcase. The sustainability of the industry is very dependent upon finding a market for 75% of the bird that is left over after removing the breasts. Absence of markets for these products, highly desired in some countries, pushes more value into UK consumed breast meat.

If the UK reverts to WTO rules, it would result in additional trade friction costs of 8%, with the introduction of new checks to ensure regulatory equivalence that would create significant delays. If the UK fails to secure a free trade agreement with the EU and/or unilaterally remove tariffs for all trade partners, there is a danger that UK consumers will be faced with a lowering of standards and poorer quality food with imports from non-EU states.

Continued access to labour

Our industry has grown significantly beyond the UK labour availability and 60% of our workforce are EU nationals. Until new approaches to productivity and innovation have been phased in, we need continued access to non-UK labour to ensure a secure supply of the nation’s favourite meat. We are calling for a specific Sector Deal for the poultry industry that will streamline and simplify the visa system for our skilled workers and allow us to fill 6,800 vacancies every year with non-UK workers.

No-deal Brexit will create a two-tier food system

Leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for our sector, for our workforce and for British consumers of poultry meat. We risk losing the 22,800 EU nationals employed by our sector, the £5bn Gross Value Added we contribute to the economy and the £1bn in tax revenue we generate.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there will be increases in the costs of production, which would be reflected in the price of fresh UK chicken. We estimate in the worst case no-deal scenario, the price of breast meat could rise by 25%.

If the Government is serious about making Brexit work, then it must avoid running the risk of creating a two-tier food system, where only the affluent can afford to eat British poultry that meets British standards from farm to fork. It is crucial that the UK finds a workable trade deal with the EU and gives our sector access to the non-UK labour that we need to feed the nation. Government must treat food as a special case to ensure a secure and trusted supply of British food at a time of great uncertainty.


Shraddha Kaul, Public Affairs and Public Relations Manager, British Poultry Council

5-11 Lavington Street, London SE1 0NZ

Telephone 020 3544 1675


Twitter @britishpoultry and




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