Meat & Livestock News

UK Beef and Lamb Production Increases as Christmas Approaches

Fresh red meet and butchery worker working in background.

In the United Kingdom, beef and lamb production has seen a notable increase as the Christmas season nears, according to recent data.

For October, UK beef production rose to 82,100 tonnes, marking a 14% increase from September. This growth is primarily attributed to the ramping up of production to meet the demand for the festive season. However, production volumes were still slightly lower than the previous year, down by 2,800 tonnes.

The increase in beef production was driven by a rise in prime cattle slaughter, which grew by 17,100 head to 180,500 head in October. Despite this increase, the throughput for October remained about 3,900 head below the same period last year. Prime carcase weights have remained relatively stable, with a minor reduction of 0.6kg on average.

Throughout the year, carcase weights have been lighter, despite stronger grass growth, with recent poor weather affecting grazing.

Cull cow slaughter also saw an increase in October, reaching 64,000 head, up 14,400 head (29%) from September. However, this figure was still 4.6% lower than the previous year. Cow prices have been impacted by reduced demand for processing beef over the summer, a trend that has also been observed in the EU. Seasonal increases in slaughter ahead of housing have also likely affected prices.

In terms of lamb production, the UK reported a growth of 10% from September to 25,200 tonnes in October, following the seasonal trend. Throughputs for clean sheep totalled just over 1.1 million head, an increase of over 100,000 head from September.

This figure is 113,000 heads behind the average for the past five years, with lambs generally being slower to come forward this season. This delay, coupled with favourable import/export flows, has maintained market tightness and likely benefited prices in recent months, which have remained well above last year’s levels. Adult sheep slaughter continues to be lower than last year’s levels, down 13,600 head (9%) to 144,100 head for October.

Carcase weights for clean sheep fell by 0.2kg to an average of 19.5kg in October. This is slightly below the weights seen over the previous two years but is closer to the five-year average.

These figures, sourced from Defra, provide an overview of the current trends in UK beef and lamb production as the industry prepares for the increased demand typical of the festive season.