I fully acknowledge the role played by family butchers and recognise that they can have much to offer to the market in terms of high quality product and traceability of supply. While the retail market is highly competitive, there is no doubt that operators who can offer top quality products, produced and supplied in a manner which meet the wide-ranging and high demands of today's consumer have a definite role to play.
Family butchers, because of the nature of their activity, must comply with food safety and hygiene standards which are provided for in EU and national legislation. The purpose of these legal standards is to ensure an acceptable level of meat hygiene and to guarantee public safety. New EU state aid rules preclude member states from providing financial assistance to operators aimed at bringing them up to minimum hygiene and food safety requirements. Standard operating procedures have been drawn up by my Department for small abattoirs slaughtering less than six livestock per week in an effort to ensure that costs incurred by them in meeting mandatory hygiene and food safety standards are minimised.