Slightly lower EU beef production in 2021

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

A total of 6.8 million tonnes of beef was produced in the EU in 2021, slightly less (-0.4%) than was produced the year before.

This came despite EU cattle slaughter posting a 0.5% increase to 23 million head, as lighter average carcase weights drove lower overall production.

The top two producers, France and Germany, saw output fall slightly in 2021, to 1.4 and 1.1 million tonnes respectively. Beef production in these countries has generally been falling for several years.

However, Ireland saw the largest fall in production, with output down 39,000 tonnes (-6%) to 594,000 tonnes. This was the lowest production figure since 2016. Irish government figures show that cattle slaughter fell by 6% in 2021 to 1.7 million head, as supplies remained tight. For 2022, Ireland is expected to kill more cattle, with growth forecast in the second half of the year based on population data. Read our analysis on what this could mean for the UK market.

Elsewhere, Italy and Spain grew their beef production in 2021, with Spain showing the largest increase in production out of all EU nations. Spain has been increasing its output of beef over time, with the country’s livestock sector undergoing expansion in recent years. The USDA reports that increased Spanish beef production last year came from higher cow kill rather than prime cattle, potentially spurred on by higher feed costs. In 2022, Spain’s beef production is forecast to fall, as fewer cows are expected to be killed.

For the wider bloc, the EU Commission forecasts that total beef production will fall by a further 1% year-on-year in 2022, reflecting shrinking dairy and suckler herds. This trend is part of the Commission’s longer-term outlook to 2031.

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