A £4M fund had been launched this week which aims to boost the sustainability and efficiency of red meat and poultry smaller abattoirs across England.

The Smaller Abattoir Fund will award capital grants from £2,000 up to a maximum of £60,000. Officials say they hope the funding will help improve productivity, enhance animal health and welfare, and encourage innovation and investment in new technologies.

It will support the purchase of a diverse range of capital investments, including items such as cold storage units which can expand refrigeration capacity for processing, allowing abattoirs to increase production rates and help remove the waiting times experienced by many farmers for getting stock processed.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will email all eligible smaller abattoirs directly within the coming days, outlining the application process.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: "England’s abattoirs are critical to livestock farmers who provide their high-quality products to local butchers and farm shops up and down the country.

"This £4m fund will not only help smaller abattoir and mobile business owners to innovate, invest and improve standards, but it will give farmers, particularly those who produce native and rare breeds, more stability in getting their products to market.

"Today’s announcement delivers on key commitments made on Back British Farming Day in September to identify opportunities to remove unnecessary burdens for smaller abattoirs, support farmers in reaching local and international markets, and ensure that farmers are being paid a fair price for their products.

"It also builds on government efforts to increase fairness in the supply chain as set out at the Farm to Fork Summit earlier this year, with new regulations for the dairy and pig sectors to be introduced next year, a consultation on the egg sector currently live and a consultation on horticulture supply chains launching shortly."

John Mettrick, Chair of the Abattoir Sector Group, added: "I am delighted that the Smaller Abattoir Fund has launched. This demonstrates that the government recognises the importance of small abattoirs to farmers, butchers, and the whole rural supply chain.

"This fund has been developed by Defra, the Food Standards Agency, the Abattoir Sector Group and the meat industry working together, and I would urge abattoir businesses to take advantage of the fund to help develop their businesses for the future."

Susan Jebb, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: "The Food Standards Agency recognises the challenges faced by small abattoirs and has collaborated with Defra on the development of the Smaller Abattoir Fund.

"We are keen to support the use of the fund to improve efficiency, productivity, animal welfare and innovation in this greatly valued and important sector."

The application window for the Smaller Abattoir Fund will remain open for nine months and abattoirs will be able to submit up to three applications up to the maximum funding level of £60,000.