Thursday, 16 September 2021
By Bethan Wilkins
Industry reports in recent weeks have expressed concern about slaughter levels achievable in British abattoirs due to staff shortages. However, UK clean pig slaughter has actually fared better than expected in August, with throughput about 4% higher than a year earlier at 930,700 head. There was an extra weekday in the month this year, and taking this into account slaughter per working day was just 1% lower than in August 2020.
The only nation to record a decline was Scotland, down by nearly a third year-on-year at 21,000 head. This reflects reduced kill days at a significant plant there. Throughput in England and Wales was 3% higher at 747,000 head while Northern Ireland figures stood at 162,000 head, 15% up on August 2020.
Altogether, clean pig slaughter for the first eight months of the year totalled 7.5 million head, up by 4% on the same period last year.
Throughout the month, our estimates based on the SPP sample had suggested a large year-on-year decline in pig throughputs. In July, we saw that an unusually low proportion of the clean pig kill was part of the SPP sample and, this has again been the case in August. When kill capacity is tight, we do sometimes see the proportion of kill in the SPP sample reduce, thought to be because within-company traded pigs are prioritised. However, we have not previously seen this for two consecutive months.
The August total for slaughter of sows and adult boars was reported as 11,800. This looks unusually low. AHDB also collects a sample of weekly sow slaughter, and this had closer to 17,000 during the month. The published figure is currently being queried with Defra.
The average UK clean pig carcase weight for August was noticeably higher than last year at 87.8kg, likely influenced by some slaughter delays. This, combined with the rise in clean pig slaughter, offset the low adult pig slaughter reported, and meant pig meat production in August was 4% higher than a year earlier at 83,400 tonnes.
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