UK pigmeat production up 3% in 2020 due to heavier pigs

UK pig meat production reached 984,300 tonnes in 2020, a 2.8% increase on 2019, driven by higher carcase weights.

Clean pig slaughter in 2020 totalled 10.92 million head, just 0.6% (61,300 head) more than in the previous year.

Overall, adult slaughter for the year totalled 241,500 head, 1% less than in the previous year. “We had 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 analyst Felicity Rusk said.

Meanwhile, clean pig carcase weights increased by 2.5% to average 86.9kg last year, an increase of 2kg on 2019. This annual growth is considerably larger than the 5-year average of 0.8kg and was the main factor in the overall 2.8% increase in production.

Annual change in UK production stats (2020)

There was significant year-on-year growth towards the end of the year, the AHDB figures show.

In December, UK pig meat production totalled 86,500 tonnes, 9% more than in the previous year due to a combination of higher throughputs and heavier carcase weights.UK clean pig slaughter totalled 951,700 head during the month, 5% (+44,600 head) more than in the previous year.

“While December recorded 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 not enough to compensate for these previous declines. As such, challenges remain with the number of market ready pigs backed-up on farms,” Ms Rusk said.

UK pig meat production stats (Dec 2020)

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

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

Carcase weights averaged 88.3kg, 3.6kg (4%) more than in the previous year. Weights were however 0.7kg lighter than in November.

“With the challenges of pigs backed up in the system, it is not surprising that clean pig carcase weights remained elevated in December,” Ms Rusk added.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.