Meat processor Tönnies has cut hundreds of jobs since June at two pig plants in its home market of Germany as slaughter numbers continue to “slump”.

Between 500 and 600 slaughtering and cutting positions have been eliminated across the sites in Sögel, Lower Saxony, and Weißenfels in the south of Saxony-Anhalt, a spokesperson for Tönnies confirmed, adding to a reduction in headcount at other facilities in the past two years.

Animals coming in for slaughter have dropped amid higher costs for farmers, leading to some exiting the trade altogether, Tönnies said. It was a similar story at Danish Crown, which announced 350 job cuts earlier this month at two abattoirs, citing “record-high costs” for energy and animal feed linked to the war in Ukraine. Like Germany, some pig farmers in Denmark are also shutting down production completely, Danish Crown said.

German politicians are also pushing for a general reduction in meat consumption due to environmental considerations and a national strategy to promote plant-based alternatives and organic farming.

“The entire industry is currently struggling with a slump in slaughter numbers. The reduction in animal husbandry pushed by some politicians is having a full impact. Many farmers have given up their farms and there is a shortage of animals,” Tönnies explained in a statement sent to Just Food.

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Rheda-Wiedenbrück-based Tönnies added: “We therefore also have to adapt to the current market situation and have temporarily adjusted capacities and employee numbers at our two locations, Weißenfels and Sögel, slightly – but only in the low three-digit range.”

Some of the Tönnies employees affected by the job cuts have been offered alternative positions at another pig abattoir in Rheda, while Tönnies said it has “made use of natural fluctuation and not renewed some expiring contracts”.

To reduce reliance on manual labour, Tönnies has invested “mid-double-digit million euros” in automation across its sites since the summer of 2020, with the loss of an additional 300 to 400 jobs, the company said. Most of that investment was centred on Rheda, the spokesperson confirmed.

In the UK, meat processor Pilgrim’s Pride has set out plans to close two pig slaughterhouses, putting 675 jobs at risk. The US-headquartered business again cited market conditions behind the proposal.

Meanwhile, in another protein sector, UK-based chicken supplier Moy Park, owned by Pilgrim’s Pride, has announced plans to shutter a site with the loss of more than 800 jobs.

Just Food analysis: Plant-based options taking root in meat-loving Germany