Brits' beloved pigs in blankets, hams and possibly even turkeys could all be wiped off the menu this Christmas.
The shortage of available workers from overseas looks set to ruin the festive season with many of our popular party foods expected to be hard to come by in the run-up to the big day on December 25.
The British Meat Processors Association has revealed that the industry is missing some 15,000 workers in the wake of Brexit, forcing butchers to focus on the absolute basics and forget about then little extras that make Christmas special.
A representative from the association said that there was a drive to recruit British workers but even with a boost to butchers’ wages – and therefore a sharp rise in meat prices – they were struggling to make up the numbers.
A spokeswoman for the group told The Times: “We’ve been managing to keep food supplies rolling, day to day, but we really should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and so far we haven’t been so there’ll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets.
“Anything that is labour-intensive work could see shortages.”
A skilled butcher can now earn up to £37,000.
Britain’s points-based migration system classes classes butchers as skilled workers, so they can apply for entry visas, but Home Secretary Priti Patel has signalled that she won’t let the current labour shortages undo the Brexit rules.
“We’re not going to return to freedom of movement by incrementally adding every sector to the points-based immigration,” a government source said.
The National Farmers Union has called for emergency visas for foreign butchers after warning that the shortage of butchers could force farmers to cull up to 150,000 pigs in the next 10 days.
Meanwhile the British Poultry Council says said that staff shortages have caused turkey production to drop by as much as 20%.
A senior industry figure told The Times: “Turkey farmers just aren’t producing as many chicks as previously because they’ve anticipated a labour shortage to process them at Christmas.”
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