Europe: How much do they consume?

The EU is a developed market and has high levels of meat and dairy consumption across a range of different cuts and products. It is important to bear in mind that per capita consumption and levels of trade vary across the member states.

Figure 1. Red meat consumption per capita in the EU

Source: OECD


Pork is the most consumed of all red meats in the EU, at 32.5 kg per capita. Pork consumption is expected to reduce by 650,000 tonnes by 2029 (source: OECD).

EU pork production is high at 22.5m tonnes, with Spain, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands the main producers. The EU is producing more pork than it consumes, but there are limited levels of imports and exports. Production is expected to fall by 750,000 tonnes. However, this should not cause too much of an impact due to the similar decrease in consumption levels.  

The majority of imported pork comes from the UK, and as imports are expected to rise by 11,000 tonnes over the next decade this presents a slight opportunity for UK exporters (source: OECD). While the UK’s main exports to the EU are fresh carcases and loins, the EU provides a market for cuts of pork less popular with UK consumers, important for ensuring carcase balance.


Beef consumption in the EU in 2022 is currently 10.3 kg per person per year, but is expected to decrease to 10 kg by 2029 – nearly 250,000 fewer tonnes a year (source: OECD).

Beef production in 2022 is currently nearly 7m tonnes a year, satisfying consumption levels of 6.5m tonnes. Production is expected to decrease at a similar rate to consumption, but import and export levels are not expected to change.

The EU imports nearly 340,000 tonnes of beef each year, with the UK top, followed by Brazil and Argentina. UK beef exports increased between 2021 and 2022, with fresh and frozen boneless beef cuts the largest exported product.

Sheep meat

Sheep meat consumption is much lower than other red meat in the EU. It is seen as a premium product and eaten on special occasions. Consumption is currently 665,000 tonnes a year and this is expected to grow only slightly, to reach 9,000 tonnes in 2029 (source: OECD).

Compared with consumption and production levels, trade of sheep meat in and out of the EU is modest. Nearly 155,000 tonnes of sheep meat is imported, predominantly from the UK, New Zealand and Australia. Sheep meat imported by the EU is expected to stay at the same level over the next decade, but continuing strong trade with these markets will be important.

The largest export market for UK lamb is France, followed by Germany, Belgium and Ireland. The bulk of UK exports to the EU are full and half carcases. However, opportunities exist for specific cuts, but these would have to overcome issues surrounding border friction and labour changes in the UK. The amount of sheep meat imported into the EU is expected to stay at the same level over the next decade but continuing strong trade with these markets will be important.

Figure 2. Dairy consumption per capita in the EU

 Source: OECD


Fresh dairy products

Fresh dairy product consumption is high in the EU, at 85.2 kg per person per year in 2022, with the total expected to increase by more than 2m tonnes by 2029 (source: OECD). However, it is predicted by OECD that this will be met by increased production rather than imports.


Butter consumption per capita is currently 4.8 kg and is expected to rise to 4.9 kg by 2029 – an increase of 26,000 tonnes (source: OECD). This will largely be met by higher production as imports are not expected to increase.


Cheese consumption is already high in the EU at 21.4 kg per capita. This is expected to rise by 400,000 tonnes over the next decade, largely met by increased production. However, imports are expected to grow by 7,000 tonnes (source: OECD). The UK is currently the EU’s largest cheese importer, so this could be an opportunity for producers of niche, high-value products.

Milk powder

Both skimmed and whole milk powder consumption is low in the EU, and is only expected to increase by 10,000 tonnes (source: OECD). Imports are expected to stay the same, and therefore will not offer opportunities for UK exporters.



The EU is one of the world’s largest wheat producers and exporters, with France and Germany the biggest-producing member states. The OECD forecasts EU wheat production will fall by 5% from the 2019–21 average to 126.7m tonnes by 2031. However, for the continent of Europe, wheat production is forecast to increase by 4% by 2031, mainly due to higher wheat output expected for Russia. This is partly reflected in the import forecast for 2031, which expects Europe’s wheat imports to be 3% lower by 2031, while EU imports are forecast at 16% higher.

Wheat consumption in continental Europe is forecast by the OECD to grow by a modest 0.8% to 178,200 tonnes by 2031 compared with the 2019–21 average. However, for the EU, consumption is forecast to decline by 4% to 99,900 tonnes. Consumption of wheat per capita is projected to grow by 2% (to 108.1 kg per person per year) and 3% (to 113.6 kg per person per year) respectively for the continent of Europe and the EU over the same period.

While the EU is a net exporter of wheat, it still needs to import it. This includes hard, soft, milling and feed wheat. The supply and demand balance for these wheats varies from year to year.

Figure 3 shows UK wheat exports to the EU in recent years and highlights prominent destinations such as Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and, from time to time, Portugal.

Figure 3. UK wheat exports to the EU, 2015–2021

Source: UK HMRC compiled by Trade Data Monitor LLC

In recent years, exports to Ireland and Spain have averaged £30.4m and £26.9m, respectively (2019–21).

The versatility and consistency of UK wheat is favoured in these markets and considered to be reliable.

UK soft milling wheat, which is suitable for biscuit making as well as producing certain types of breads and classified as uks for overseas customers, is particularly popular in Spain and Portugal and usually traded as a premium product.

Unlike the EU, the UK is not a big wheat exporter but there are opportunities for niche products. There is considerable potential for the UK’s exports to Spain and Portugal as these markets value UK wheat. However, continuity of supply presents a challenge. The supply of soft wheat is limited with UK farmers opting to grow other, often higher yielding, varieties instead.


The EU is the world’s largest barley producer and is in regular competition with Australia for the position of top global exporter. Like wheat, Germany and France are the top-producing member states. EU barley exports averaged 7.4m tonnes between 2019 and 2021, while imports averaged 1.3m tonnes over the same period. The UK is the main origin of EU barley imports, accounting for 80% of by quantity and value (2019–21 average), with malting barley the primary export.