2016 beef statistics point the way to boosting profitable production

The agricultural industry saw an increase in beef production during 2016, despite a decrease in the average carcase weight aimed at meeting consumer tastes, says Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) in its Market Bulletin for February 2017.

Defra figures show that the total number of prime cattle slaughtered in the UK throughout 2016 reached 1,974,900 head, an increase of 2.4% when compared to 2015.

HCC’s Industry Information Executive, John Richards said: “Normally, a throughput of an additional 45,000 prime beef animals would mean a significantly higher level of production than the previous year. This, however, was not the case in 2016 as carcase weights were down throughout the year. This meant that production from prime beef animals was 693,000 tonnes, an increase of just over one per cent.”

This decline in carcase weight was influenced by the change in deadweight specification from processors throughout the UK.

John Richards added: “During 2016 most processors in the UK lowered their highest weight band to around 400kg, this was to meet consumer requirements for smaller joint sizes and shorter cooking times.”

“Beef producers in the UK responded to these changes by producing lighter carcases. Steers and heifers averaged 372.4kg and 327.9kg respectively, 2kg and 3kg lighter. The significant drop in carcase weights was also seen with young bulls; in 2016 they averaged 327.1kg, nearly 17kg lighter than in 2015.”

BCMS data also highlighted changes in the average age of animals sent to UK abattoirs last year.

“The BCMS figures showed that there were fewer cattle of ages 26-30 months going through UK abattoirs last year compared to 2015, despite a higher total throughput,” said John Richards. “As with carcase weights, this emphasises how producers responded to market signals.”

“While some producers may have been dismayed by the lowered carcase weights seen in 2016, a project part-funded by HCC revealed that one of the key drivers for profitable beef finishing was addressing and lowering the age of slaughter while meeting market specification.”