Beef and lamb update: production grows as Christmas nears

Thursday, 30 November 2023

Key points

  • Beef production grew in October to 82,100 tonnes, up 14% from September.
  • Prime cattle slaughter led the boost in production but remained lower than last year.
  • Production of sheep meat grew 10% from September to 25,200 tonnes.
  • Throughputs grew for October but remained behind levels seen last year.


UK beef production for October grew to 82,100 tonnes, up 14% from September as we began to see production ramp up to meet Christmas demand. Production volumes were still below last year’s levels however, down 2,800 tonnes.

Prime cattle slaughter has grown by 17,100 head to 180,500 head for October, driving growth in production figures. Throughputs for October remained around 3,900 head below the same period last year. Prime carcase weights stayed relatively stable for October, with a slight reduction of 0.6kg on average. Generally, carcase weights have been lighter throughout the year despite stronger grass growth, with some reports of recent poor weather hampering grazing.

Cull cow slaughter grew in October to 64,000 head, up 14,400 head (29%) from September. This was still 4.6% below a year ago. Cow prices have been hampered by reduced demand for processing beef through the summer period, a trend also reported in the EU. More recently, prices will have also felt the pressure from seasonal uplifts in kill ahead of housing.

UK beef production YTD (Jan – Oct)

graph showing uk beef production

Source: Defra



UK sheep meat production grew on the month to 25,200 tonnes for October. This is growth of 2,300 tonnes (10%), following the seasonal trend.

Throughputs for clean sheep totalled just over 1.1m head, growth of over 100,000 head from September. This is 113,000 head behind the average for the past five years, with lambs generally been slower to come forward this season. This, plus favourable import/export flows, have kept tightness in the market and likely benefitted prices in recent months, which have sat well above last year. Adult sheep slaughter continues to be behind last year’s levels, down 13,600 head (9%) to 144,100 head for October.

Carcase weights fell by 0.2kg to average 19.5kg across clean sheep in October. This is slightly below weights seen over the previous two years but sits closer to the five-year average.

UK sheep meat production YTD (Jan – Oct)

graph showing uk sheep meat production

Source: Defra



Image of staff member Izzy Shohet

Izzy Shohet

Analyst (Red Meat)

See full bio

Sign up for regular updates

You can subscribe to receive Beef and Lamb market news straight to your inbox. Simply fill in your contact details on our online form.

Visit the Keep in touch page

While AHDB seeks to ensure that the information contained on this webpage is accurate at the time of publication, no warranty is given in respect of the information and data provided. You are responsible for how you use the information. To the maximum extent permitted by law, AHDB accepts no liability for loss, damage or injury howsoever caused or suffered (including that caused by negligence) directly or indirectly in relation to the information or data provided in this publication.

All intellectual property rights in the information and data on this webpage belong to or are licensed by AHDB. You are authorised to use such information for your internal business purposes only and you must not provide this information to any other third parties, including further publication of the information, or for commercial gain in any way whatsoever without the prior written permission of AHDB for each third party disclosure, publication or commercial arrangement. For more information, please see our Terms of Use and Privacy Notice or contact the Director of Corporate Affairs at  © Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. All rights reserved.