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UK pigmeat production declines to five-year low

23rd Jan 2024 / By Alistair Driver

UK pigmeat production fell by 11% to a five-year low in 2023, as slaugherings declined by 10% to the lowest figure in a decade. 

The latest Defra slaughter statistics showed the UK produced 71,900 tonnes of pigmeat in December, a massive 18% decline of 14,300t compared with December 2022.

This was on the back of a 17% decline in clean pig slaughter numbers to 781,800 head, representing a loss of over 177,000 head from December 2022, despite reported efforts to pull pigs forwards ahead of Christmas.

UK pigmeat production 2023

The December slaughtering deficit contrasted with much smaller year-on-year declines for November (910,000) and October (887,000) of 5% and 10% respectively. “Adverse wet weather conditions caused flooding and wider disruption during the month and may have had an impact on throughputs,” said AHDB senior analyst Freya Shuttleworth.

The December pig production figure meant that for the full year of 2023, the UK produced 927,400t of pig meat, an 11% year on year decline and the lowest annual volume recorded since 2018.

The main driver was a 10% fall in the 2023 clean pig kill to 10.06 million head, a loss of more than 1.1m head and the lowest annual clean pig kill in a decade.

Carcase weights, averaging at 89.1kg, were lower throughout 2023, compared with 2022 when the backlog resulted in elevated weights.

The sow and boar kill was down 15% in 2023 due to the contraction seen in the UK pig herd throughout 2022 and 2023.

These official production and slaughter figures reinforce the picture painted by the recent publication of Defra’s June 2023 census figures showing the overall pig population declined by more than 10% between June 2022 and June 2023 to stand at 4.68million head.

The number of fattening pigs in June 2023 was down by 11.2% to 4.26 million head, the lowest number recorded since 2015, reflecting 2022’s UK breeding herd contraction on the back of the two-year industry crisis and the impacts on fertility of the summer 2022 heatwave.