Raw sausages and other minced meats can no longer be exported to the EU from 1 January, according to new rules.
The guidance is part of the post-Brexit trade deal agreed between the UK and the EU last week.
Meat industry bodies attended a conference call with ministers on Tuesday to seek clarification about the issue.
The British Meat Processors Association said it was one of several issues causing concern.
New EU rules on exports dictate that from 1 January, the following animal products cannot be exported into the EU:
- Chilled minced red meat
- Chilled meat preparations (for example, raw sausages)
- Minced meat (poultry)
- Poultry and ratite or game bird mechanically-separated meat
- Raw milk from cows infected with Bovine Tuberculosis (TB)
- Ungraded eggs
- Composite products containing dairy products made from unpasteurised milk (for example, a ready meal topped with unpasteurised cheese)
However, these new rules do not affect exports of raw minced meats to Northern Ireland.
The British Meat Processors Association’s (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said: “This was just one of the issues that was causing us some concern, but I guess towards the end we sort of knew that wasn’t going to come through in the negotiations, the way they were going.”
“We hope they will be carrying on talking to the EU and that they will push through and create an export health safety certificate for these products so they can go through.”
The BMPA is hoping that more clarity on what businesses need to do will help it to prepare their members ahead of the new year.
Mr Allen added that the call was also to decide the wording on the new export health certificates.
“That wording tells us what we have to comply with and we hope we are not going to hear that there are things we’re not expecting to be on there,” he said.
‘A new opportunity’
Wilfred Emmanuel Jones is a British Devon-based farmer and founder of The Black Farmer line of meat products, including raw sausages.
Since he will no longer be allowed to export fresh sausages to the EU, he has decided to send them frozen instead.
“There’s a really big opportunity to do premium frozen sausages for the continent,” he explained. “One problem we have with sausages is that in this country at least, anything frozen is seen as down-market, not a premium product.”
The UK is the only country in Europe that makes and exports raw sausages. Other countries, as well as the US, all produce pre-cooked sausages, as they have a longer shelf life than raw ones, said Mr Jones.
But rather than give up on British traditions and make pre-cooked sausages, he thinks that sausage makers need to bring in freezing equipment.
“I think we should have a British sausage mark, so if you’re going to be selling sausages to any part of the world, it’s unique to any of the sausages around the world,” he added.
A government spokeswoman said: “We have agreed a deal based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals, centred on free trade and inspired by our shared history and values.
“It takes the UK completely out of the EU’s customs union and single market – which means businesses should continue their preparations for changes next year.”