Meat & Livestock News

January 2024 Beef Market Update: Prices Rise Amidst Varied Production and Trade Dynamics


  • GB deadweight prices for cow and prime cattle saw an increase in January, with prime cattle prices reaching levels last seen in Spring 2023.
  • Beef production rose to 80,700 tonnes, a 5% increase year-on-year, with prime cattle slaughter up by 4%.
  • Imports of fresh and frozen beef dropped by 14% year-on-year in December, while beef exports decreased by 21%.

In January 2024, the British beef market experienced notable shifts, with an increase in GB deadweight prices for both cow and prime cattle. The all-prime average price matched the figures from Spring 2023, starting the month at 487.2p/kg and closing at 491.4p/kg. Cow prices also peaked at their highest since July 2023, suggesting a firm consumer demand for more affordable primary cuts like mince.

Input costs showed a mixed picture. Fuel prices fell in January despite ongoing conflicts in the Middle East that pose a threat to crude oil prices. Fertiliser prices also saw a slight decline, continuing a trend from previous months, though they remain high due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the European energy crisis. Wheat prices faced downward pressure due to weak demand and falling export prices in Russia.

Beef production in January increased by 5% year-on-year to 80,700 tonnes, according to Defra, with a 20% month-on-month rise against December’s figures. Prime cattle slaughter reached 177,800 head, a 4% increase from the previous year, while cow slaughter was up by 17% month-on-month, sitting above the 5-year average. An extra working day in January 2024 compared to January 2023 contributed to the annual increase in cattle slaughter.

Trade dynamics also played a significant role in shaping the market. December saw a 14% year-on-year decrease in imports of fresh and frozen beef, tightening the marketplace and potentially supporting cattle prices. Beef exports in December fell by 21% year-on-year and saw a 27% decrease from November, reflecting a high base in the previous month.

These developments in the beef market reflect a complex interplay of production, demand, and trade factors as the industry navigates through various challenges and opportunities. As consumer preferences and global market conditions continue to evolve, the British beef sector remains adaptive, striving to balance supply and demand while maintaining its commitment to quality and sustainability.