Meat & Livestock News

EU Beef and Lamb Market Update: Tighter Supplies Bolster Prices

A portrait of a small adorable lamb in the field near the fence at sunset

Overview of EU Beef and Lamb Markets

The European Union’s beef and lamb markets have experienced notable trends in 2023, with supply constraints leading to price increases. This article provides a comprehensive review of the market dynamics, production changes, and future outlook for these sectors.

Beef Market Trends and Price Movements

EU prime cattle prices have generally shown growth in recent weeks, with the overall EU R3 steer measure averaging 423.6p/kg in late November. Notably, prices in Poland, Spain, and Ireland have seen an increase, while France and Germany experienced slight dips in sterling terms.

Irish throughputs have tightened, boosting prices as abattoirs prepare for Christmas demand. 

Consequently, the price differential between Great Britain and Irish R3 steers softened to 77.2p by the end of November.

Cow prices, however, have declined, continuing a trend observed since spring. The EU average cow price stood at 327.4p/kg, down from the previous year. French cow prices have seen significant falls but remain above the EU average. A general lack of demand for manufacturing beef across Europe, coupled with higher kills in some countries, has dampened overall prices.

Beef Production Decline

Beef production in the EU is generally declining, with significant reductions in Italy, Spain, and France. Italy’s production fell by over 100,000 tonnes (-20%) from the first three quarters of 2022 to 2023. Factors such as poor grazing quality and high feed costs have contributed to this decline. Cow kill has also fallen slightly across the region, with notable decreases in France, Italy, Poland, and Spain.

Sheep Market Growth

EU sheep prices have seen upward movement, with the EU reference price growing to €786/100kg (equivalent to 685p/kg) for the week ending 20 November. Spanish lamb prices have notably soared, breaking the 800p/kg barrier. France and Ireland have also seen price growth, albeit to a lesser extent.

Sheep Meat Production Trends

Sheep meat production in the EU has decreased by 7,200 tonnes (-2%) to 312,000 tonnes so far this year. Key producing countries like France, Spain, and Greece have seen output fall in the first three quarters of 2023 compared to last year.

Spain’s production fell by 8,380 tonnes (9%), with significant decreases in both adult sheep and lamb kills. France and Greece also recorded production declines. In contrast, Ireland has seen a slight increase in production, attributed to heavier weights.

Production Outlook for 2023 and 2024

The EU short-term outlooks predict a 3.1% fall in beef production and a 1.8% decrease in sheep meat production for the entirety of 2023. Both sectors are expected to experience a further 1% drop in 2024, with potential recovery if feed prices continue to lower. High domestic prices are likely to impact trade opportunities, with consumer consumption affected by cost-of-living pressures.