Butcher legal issues

Butcher pointing to a selection of meats whilst serving woman in butchers

The following is an outline of some of the key areas where legislation may be particularly relevant to your business.

What licences does a butcher need?

Because your shop will prepare, store and sell food you will need to register with your local environmental health department. They will inspect your premises and help you to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and regulations. You should contact your local authority early on in your planning so that you register in good time - you'll need to register at least 28 days before you start any food operations. There is no charge for registering.

Selling game

Apart from in Scotland, you don't need a licence to sell game, although you must make sure that any game bird or venison you sell was lawfully killed. Venison dealers in Scotland still need to hold a venison licence, although generally the need to have a licence only applies to wholesalers - retailers who buy venison only from a licensed dealer don't need to have a licence themselves.

Background music

If you plan to play background music in your shop you will probably need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website.

Food safety

All businesses in the food sector must comply with strict food safety legislation. Before you open, you must register your business with the local authority environmental health department. Your local environmental health officer will be able to give you advice and guidance as to what you should install in your premises to make sure your operating areas are hygienic and how to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act and regulations.

You should be aware of the following:

  • food hygiene and safety regulations, including compliance with HACCP procedures
  • food labelling and information regulations. If you are planning to supply any prepacked food, such as pies or sausages, to another outlet - for example a delicatessen - then this food has to be clearly labelled
  • weights and measures legislation. This regulates the sale of all products sold by weight or count. All food goods sold loose from bulk, such as mince, must be priced and weighed in metric units (although you can also show prices in imperial units as well if you want)

Food waste

If your business produces food waste you must make sure that you dispose of it correctly. It must not contaminate the environment and it can't be fed to livestock. If you use a waste carrier to get rid of your waste you'll need to make sure they're properly authorised - you're allowed to dispose of up to 20kg per week of animal by-products through normal waste disposal. You can find out more about your responsibilities on the Gov.uk website.

Carrier bag charge

A 5 pence charge applies in England, but small and medium-sized businesses (with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees) are exempt. You can get detailed guidance from the gov.uk website.

Retailers in Wales and Scotland must charge customers at least 5 pence if they supply them with a single-use carrier bag. This applies to all types of single-use bag, whether they are made of plastic, paper or plant-based starch. There is detailed guidance on the Gov.Wales and Zero Waste Scotland websites.

In Northern Ireland retailers must charge customers a 5 pence levy on all bags with a retail price of less than 20 pence (including any bags that would otherwise be free of charge), whether they are single-use or reusable.

Health & Safety, fire

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Insurance for a butcher

Contact an insurer or insurance broker and explain exactly how your business will operate - they will then explain what insurance cover you must have by law, and other cover you should consider. This might include:

  • premises, premises contents and stock
  • goods in transit (for example on the way back from a cash and carry, or delivering to customers)
  • freezer breakdown
  • cash
  • business interruption
  • employers liability
  • public and products liability
  • motor insurance (for delivery vehicles)

When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form.

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