The UK pigmeat market is hugely under-provided with domestically produced loins and legs and massively over-provided with heads, tails and trotters, a carcase balance issue which AHDB Pork says has a “limiting” effect on the home-produced share of the UK market.
While UK’s self-sufficiency in pigmeat has increased from around 47% to 55% in the last decade, for example, home producers’ share of domestic pigmeat sales has stayed “stubbornly low” at around 40%.
According to AHDB Pork, this is due to the consequences of carcase balance, by which it means that while domestic demand for loins equates to 23 million pigs worth of production a year, with the equivalent figure for legs being 19m, domestic demand for other cuts fall well below current home production totals.
“The demand for shoulders, for example, is estimated at only 7m pigs worth,” said AHBP Pork, although that figure is being helped by the rising popularity of pulled pork. “Demand for belly meat is even lower, equating to about 5m pigs, around a third of which comes from streaky bacon.
“Other parts of the carcase, such as the head, tail and trotters attract virtually no demand from domestic consumers.”
Together with the excess shoulders and bellies, these cuts have to find export markets. Increasingly, they are destined for emerging markets but the prices available will be much lower than for cuts which are in demand closer to home.
“Unless consumer preferences change radically, which seems unlikely, the issue of carcase balance isn’t going to go away,” said AHDB Pork.
“This will limit the ability of the UK pig industry to grow, as it would mean an even bigger surplus of cuts such as shoulders and bellies. This would push prices for these cuts down further, with a likely knock-on effect on carcase prices. In reality, that means that production can only grow as new markets for these cuts are developed.
“Therefore, while further expansion of the UK herd is possible, it is likely to remain steady rather than spectacular.”