Suffolk shops struggling to secure fresh meat as CO2 concerns deepen

L - R George Debman and Ziyad Mohammed

Some Suffolk shops are struggling to stay stocked with meat but local butchers aren't feeling the same effect. L - R George Debman and Ziyad Mohammed - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images/ Sarah Lucy Brown/ Ziyad Mohammed

A Suffolk convenience store has said it is facing serious difficulties sourcing meat products following national CO2 shortages.  

Ziyad Mohammed who runs the Costcutter in Rendlesham said he was facing serious issues in acquiring stock for his shop, of which fresh meat was among the worst.  

Meanwhile, butchers and meat producers in the county say that shopping local could help consumers avoid the worst of the shortages.  

Dwindling CO2 supplies have led to concerns about the supply of meat in the UK with concerns that the country could be 10 days away from a full shortage.  

Pictures of empty supermarket shelves have emerged in recent days as shoppers struggle to find prepacked meats.  

CO2 is used both to stun animals before death and in the packing process to help meats last longer.  

Rising energy costs have led to the suspension of operations at fertiliser plants – which produce CO2 as a by-product –and which is now having a knock-on effect on the food industry.

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CO2 is injected into the packaging of perishable foods such as meat and salads to prevent the growth of bacteria. It typically prolongs the shelf life of products such as beef steak by around five days.

Supermarket giant Tesco said that they still had good availability in store and online but was working closely with suppliers and the Government as the situation developed.  

Danny Stephan and Ziyad Mohammed are concerned about the future of their business Picture: ZIYAD MOH

Ziyad Mohammed (r) said that he had struggled to get all the items they were looking for, for the store - Credit: ZIYAD MOHAMMED

However, Mr Mohammed, has said that his Costcutter business has been struggling in recent months to acquire all the necessary items for the shop. 

“We are struggling to get lots of things,” he said.  

“We haven’t been able to get them for two or three months.” 

He said that in some cases up to 50% of items they had hoped to order could not be fulfilled and that fresh meat was one of the hardest items to acquire for the shop.  

“Sometimes we get complaints from customers,” he said.  

“Some people understand, some people don’t.”  

Mr Mohammed said that the business was also feeling the impact of the CO2 shortages in its Tango Ice Blast machine which required the gas to produce the icy beverage.   

The company is now on a waiting list, having found it relatively easy to acquire the requisite gas cylinders in the past. 

He said that it wasn’t clear from suppliers when things might get back to normal. However, he said that the situation had improved of late.  

“They are trying to get things back to normal but they are not saying exact times,” he said.  

Elsewhere in Suffolk, however, there are fewer concerns from local butchers and meat producers. 

Ipswich butcher George Debman has made the decision not to stock lamb due to the huge price rises

Ipswich butcher George Debman - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ipswich butcher George Debman, who is national president of the National Craft Butchers, said that his business was having no issues with supplying meat.  

"We are not finding a shortage," he said.  

"We have no problem at all." 

Mr Debman said that if consumers stuck to local businesses rather than supermarkets, they would find there were no problems.  

He said that the key was to having shorter food miles: where butchers take meat from local abattoirs that originated from local farms rather than being sent around the country.  

"If people use a smaller shop the owners will go the extra mile to fulfil your order," he said.  

Looking forward to the end of the year, Mr Debman was quick to dispel any worries over turkey shortages.  

"They are saying there will be a shortage of turkeys at Christmas," he said.  

"I have spoken to my suppliers and there is no problem." 

 Jeremy Thickitt, of KW Clarke, is preparing for the Aldeburgh Food Festival.

Jeremy Thickitt of Bramfield Meats - Credit: Su Anderson

Meat producer Jeremy Thickitt of Bramfield Meats, near Halesworth, said that he didn't see there being an issue for his business either.  

"We seem to be doing okay at the moment," he said.  

"We are still very local." 

Mr Thickett said that one of the abattoirs the company used does use CO2 but that there were no issues there at the moment nor with CO2 with the packaging for goods sold at their farm shop.  

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he was looking into options to help get fertiliser factories back online in the next few days.

"It may come at some cost," he said.

"We’re still hammering out details, we’re still looking at a plan."