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.

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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