More meat produced in 2014

Jan 27 2015

UK production of sheep, beef and pig meat increased during 2014, according to the latest figures released by Defra.

This was due to a combination of factors including a rise in both slaughterings and carcase weights.

The total production of UK sheep meat in 2014 increased by three per cent on the previous year to 298,200 tonnes, despite a downward turn of 13 per cent in cull ewe and ram slaughtering.

Last year’s large lamb crop led to a 3.2 per cent uplift in UK slaughterings to 12.8 million head, which was approximately 400,000 lambs more than in 2013.

From April 2014 onwards, the number of slaughtered lambs was higher month on month compared to the previous year. Last year’s record was set in October with 1.55 million lambs slaughtered, followed by 1.27 million lambs in July.

“Disastrous weather during 2013, which increased both ewe and lamb mortality, were replaced by exceptionally good conditions in the run-up and during last year’s lambing season,” said Charlotte Morris, Industry Information Officer at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

“Producers encountered higher lambing rates and optimal growing conditions across the UK, leading to increased throughputs in July.”

Favourable growing conditions also enabled lambs to gain heavier carcase weights, with the overall average for 2014 standing at 19.4kg. This was 0.5kg heavier than the average weights achieved in 2013.

Miss Morris added: “While it is understandable that some producers may decide to keep lambs to heavier weights in an effort to maximise price, it is worth remembering that most abattoirs set a maximum level for carcase weights. As such, going above this can lead to penalties and reduced profit.”

In the beef sector, prime cattle slaughterings in the UK totalled 1.94 million in 2014 which was two per cent more than in the previous year. This was largely influenced by an eight per cent increase in the number of steers slaughtered in 2013 but was offset by a 15 per cent reduction in the number of young bulls that were slaughtered.

While there was an increase in the number of beef animals sent to abattoirs last year, prime cattle slaughter figures in 2014 are significantly behind numbers a decade earlier which totalled 2.3 million in 2004.

“The long term declining beef herd in the UK has had a major impact on the number of cattle available for slaughter in recent years,” said Miss Morris. “The breeding herd declined by 2.6 per cent in 2014.

“With fewer beef cattle under two-years-of-age on the ground, tighter supplies and lower beef production are forecast to continue into the near future. It is hoped that this will have a favourable impact on prices.”

Positively decreased cereal costs and increased forage quality permitted beef producers to produce animals of heavier weights, with the overall average prime cattle carcase weight for 2014 standing at 349kg - two per cent (or 9kg) heavier than in 2013.

This enabled UK beef and veal production for 2014 to increase by four per cent to a total of 877,600 tonnes. As with sheep, the number of cull cows sent to slaughter decreased on the year.

Meanwhile, clean pig slaughterings had risen by 1.7 per cent to 10.2 million in 2014, with pig meat production also increasing by 3.5 per cent to 862,100 tonnes on the back of heavier carcase weights. 

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