Reading Time: 2 minutes CO2 is frequently used by the meat industry to stun animals before slaughtering Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Meat producers and farmers in the UK are pressing the government to solve the ‘gas crisis’, driven by record-high prices that are halting slaughters of animals.

Currently, CO2 is used as a method of killing animals across the industry, but farmers warn a meat shortage crisis is on its way.

CO2 crisis

Surging prices have driven two of the country’s largest fertilizer plants to suspend production. 

They are both owned by CF Industries. And, account for more than half of the commercial CO2 supply, the Financial Times reports. CO2 is used across the food industry, including for refrigeration and meat packaging.

Now, food production is under threat following the gas shortage, and the government is reportedly in emergency talks with meat processors to solve it.

Chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), Nick Allen, was present at one of the meetings with the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Allen told the BBC: “This crisis highlights the fact that the British food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertilizer producers… We rely on a by-product from their production process to keep Britain’s food chain moving.”

Meat processors are working with the government to ‘mitigate major import’, the BBC reports, and some industry leaders fear they will run out of CO2 within the fortnight.

Without CO2, slaughtering pigs and chickens ‘cannot go ahead’, a spokesperson for the BMPA added.

How is CO2 used to slaughter animals?

Before animals are killed in abattoirs, they are stunned with CO2

Animals are lowered into a chamber and suffocated with a 70 to 80 percent concentration of CO2.

Legislation insists all animals must be stunned before slaughter, with some religious exemptions. 

Many campaigners say the practice is inhumane, and have long called for it to be banned. The Humane Slaughter Association says it causes ‘significant’ distress.

Moreover, a figure at Compassion In World Farming told the BBC: “In concentrated carbon dioxide, pigs will panic, try desperately to escape and gasp, before falling down and losing consciousness up to a minute later [according to some sources] and possibly longer.”

Meat industry fears

The owner of turkey producer Bernard Matthews Foods even warned that ‘Christmas will be canceled’, The Guardian reported.

The government held talks over the weekend under mounting pressure. In a statement, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the shortage is ‘not a cause for immediate concern’.

He added: “The UK benefits from having a diverse range of gas supply sources, with sufficient capacity to more than meet demand.

“The UK’s gas system continues to operate reliably and we do not expect supply emergencies this winter.”

Emily is a News and Features Writer for Plant Based News. She has previously worked as a journalist in Devon, UK, reporting on local issues from politics to the environment.