January 25, 2021


AHDB: December production of UK pig meat shows some recovery


In December, UK pig meat production totaled 86,500 tonnes, 9% more than in the previous year, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said.


The increase in production was due to a combination of higher throughputs and heavier carcase weights.


It should be highlighted that Defra has revised its UK pig meat production statistics since the original release on January 14. Figures for December 2019 and 2020 were revised.


Overall, in 2020, UK pig meat production reached 984,300 tonnes, 3% more than in 2019. With throughputs only recording a relatively small increase on the year, growth was mainly driven by the rise in clean pig carcase weights.


In December, UK clean pig slaughter totaled 951,700 head, 5% (+44,600 head) more than in the previous year. While December did record a rise, the two previous months both saw slaughter below 2019 levels, reflecting the challenges faced by processing plants due to COVID-19. The increase in December is inadequate to compensate for these previous declines, AHDB said. As such, challenges remain with the number of market ready pigs backed up on farms.


Throughputs in 2020 as a whole totaled 10.92 million head, 0.6% (61,300 head) more than in the previous year.


With the challenges of pigs backed up in the system, it is not surprising that clean pig carcase weights remained elevated in December. Carcase weights averaged 88.3kg, 3.6kg (4%) more than in the previous year. However, weights were 0.7kg lighter than in November.


As such, clean carcase weights in 2020 averaged 86.9kg, 2kg more than in the previous year. This annual growth is considerably larger than the five-year average of 0.8kg. 


Slaughter of sows and boars in December recorded a significant decline on the year.


Throughputs totaled 16,900 head, 13% less than in the previous year. Sow slaughter was also affected by COVID-19 challenges in December, as well as logistical challenges at the UK-European border.


Overall, adult slaughter for the year totaled 241,500 head. This is 1% less than in the previous year.


AHDB expected to see slightly higher culling rates in 2020 due to a slightly older breeding herd. However, the subdued performance of the cull sow market last year may have affected producer decisions and processing capacity has also been limited.

AHDB is currently in the process of producing its 2021 UK pig meat market outlook, which is scheduled to be published on January 29.