How much beef did the UK produce in 2021?

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Lower prime kill again in December

Continuing the trend seen throughout most of 2021, UK beef production in December was restricted by lower cattle throughputs.

According to the latest Defra figures, 149,000 prime cattle were processed in December in UK abattoirs, 9% lower than the same month a year ago. 56,300 cows came forwards, 1% more than a year ago.

Lower cattle slaughter and steady carcase weights meant that total beef production reached 69,600 tonnes in December, down 7% on the same month last year. However, production in 2020 was particularly high, driven by a combination of the pandemic and end-of-year Brexit deadline. Production during December was closer (although still lower than) the five-year average.

So, what’s the picture for 2021 overall?

The December figures meant that 886,000 tonnes of beef and veal was produced in the UK in 2021, 5% lower than the year before. This marked the lowest level of production and prime cattle kill since 2015. We had previously forecast a 4% fall in beef production in 2021 compared to the year before, based on the availability of slaughter cattle, and the elevated slaughter seen in 2020.

A total of 1.95 million prime cattle were processed in 2021, 5% fewer than 2020. Alongside this, 638,000 cull cows were slaughtered, 6% lower than the year before. Overall, average carcase weights remained relatively stable from 2020.

With 2021 behind us, our thoughts turn to what 2022 might have in store. We will be publishing our next round of Agri Market Outlooks at the end of January, covering production, consumption and trade.




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