UK pig meat production shows some recovery in December

Thursday, 21 January 2021

By Felicity Rusk

In December, UK pig meat production totalled 86,500 tonnes, 9% more than in the previous year. This was due to a combination of higher throughputs and heavier carcase weights.

It should be highlighted that Defra has revised its UK pig meat production statistics since the original release on 14 January. Figures for December 2019 and 2020 were revised.

In 2020 overall, UK pig meat production reached 984,300 tonnes, 3% more than in 2019. With throughputs only recording a relatively small increase on the year, growth was mainly driven by the rise in clean pig carcase weights.

Clean pig slaughter

In December, UK clean pig slaughter totalled 951,700 head, 5% (+44,600 head) more than in the previous year. While December did record a rise, the two previous months both saw slaughter below 2019 levels, reflecting the challenges faced by processing plants due to COVID-19. The increase in December is not enough to compensate for these previous declines. As such, challenges remain with the number of market ready pigs backed-up on farms.


Throughputs in 2020 as a whole totalled 10.92 million head, 0.6% (61,300 head) more than in the previous year.

Carcase weights

With the challenges of pigs backed up in the system, it is not surprising that clean pig carcase weights remained elevated in December. Carcase weights averaged 88.3kg, 3.6kg (4%) more than in the previous year. Weights were however 0.7kg lighter than in November.

As such, clean carcase weights in 2020 averaged 86.9kg, 2kg more than in the previous year. This annual growth is considerably larger than the 5-year average of 0.8kg.  

Adult slaughter

Slaughter of sows and boars in December recorded a significant decline on the year. Throughputs totalled 16,900 head, 13% less than in the previous year. Sow slaughter was also affected by COVID-19 challenges in December, as well as logistical challenges at the UK-European border.

Overall, adult slaughter for the year totalled 241,500 head. This is 1% less than in the previous year. We had expected to see slightly higher culling rates in 2020 due to a slightly older breeding herd. However, the subdued performance of the cull sow market last year may have affected producer decisions and processing capacity has also been limited.

We are currently in the process of producing our 2021 UK pig meat market outlook, which is scheduled to be published on Friday 29 January.


Felicity Rusk

Analyst - Livestock

Sign up for regular updates

Subscribe to receive pork market news straight to your inbox. Simply complete our online form.

Visit the Keep in touch page