The pork industry is worried the closure of independent butchers during the Covid-19 lockdown will cause an animal welfare crisis for the sector.
All independent butchers across the country have been classified as non-essential businesses.
The chief executive of NZ Pork, David Baines, said the decision would likely result in the pork sector having no place to house up to 5,000 surplus pigs on farms every week.
"By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue."
"It's very simple. There is no capacity to hold surplus pigs on farm. Commercial farms typically supply pigs to market on a weekly basis and do not carry spare holding capacity. Overcrowding of pigs in pens would quickly constitute a significant welfare issue under the animal welfare code," Baines said.
Baines said wholesalers did not have the capacity to process and freeze the surplus volumes. Freezing carcasses was also not a complete option to the surplus volume, due to the limited blast freezer and storage capacity, he said.
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New Zealand-produced pigs could be offered to manufacturers as a substitute to imported products but most manufacturers now used imported product and did not operate boning rooms or employ staff to process the additional New Zealand pigs, he said.
"We believe adding independent butchers and large food retailers to the essential businesses list would be a pragmatic and sensible decision and be consistent with the government's decision to classify the production and distribution of food as an essential service."
NZ Pork had been in talks with Agriculture Minister and the Ministry for Primary Industries about the situation and Baines said it had been advised the minister was seriously considering the issue.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the government was well aware of the situation and it was working on solutions.
O'Connor said this included looking at how the skills of butchers could be utilised, and better ways of distributing pork.
He said while re-opening butcheries was an option, the Government did not want to do anything that could possibly cause the spread of Covid-19.
"That's why we're trying to be absolutely hard-nosed now. But we realise there is an issue here and we're trying to work through that as quickly as we can."