Higher December beef production rounds off 2020

Thursday, 14 January 2021

The UK produced 74,500 tonnes of beef and veal in December, up 5% year-on-year, according to the latest figures from Defra.

Prime cattle slaughter in the month increased by 6% year on year to 162,600 head, while cow slaughter increased by 1% to 56,400 head. Several factors may have contributed to higher cattle throughputs; strong domestic prices driven by robust retail demand, the impending EU-exit deadline for those supplying EU markets, and an extra working day during the month this year.

Changes in average carcase weights during December were mixed, with steers on average 1% lighter (3kg), heifers 1% heavier (+2kg) and young bulls 2% heavier (+8kg) on the year. Cows were also heavier year-on-year, by 1% (4kg) on average.

2020 in full

The December figures mean that total beef and veal production in 2020 reached 931,200 tonnes, up 2% from 2019.

Prime cattle slaughter for the full year reached just over 2 million head, a 2% (40,000 head) rise on 2019. The majority of the rise in prime slaughter was due to an increase in heifer numbers, which rose by 4% on the year to 829,100 head. Steer slaughter also rose, by 1% to 1.04 million head.

Young bull slaughter recorded a fourth year of annual decline, falling by a further 5% in 2020 to 182,800 head. Young bulls made up 9% of total UK prime slaughter in 2020, down from 16% ten years ago. Total cow slaughter for the year came to 674,700 head, up 1% on 2019.


Look out for our Agri-Market Outlook this month, in which we will look at how cattle slaughter, production and trade might change in the year ahead.

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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