UK pig slaughterings stable, but butchery capacity remains limiting factor

UK clean pig slaughter in September was nearly 1% up on last year at 916,700 head, according to Defra figures. 

Slaughter in Scotland totalled just 20,000 head, roughly two-thirds of the level last year, due largely to major issues at the Brechin plant. Throughput for England and Wales alone was 3% higher than last year at 738,000 head, while in Northern Ireland, slaughter totalled 159,000 head, virtually unchanged compared with the previous year.

Even though slaughter levels have not been particularly low, the industry continues to see difficulties with the number of pigs waiting on farms. Increased pig numbers were recorded in the latest census results, but a lack of butchery capacity is limiting the ability to clear additional pig numbers, especially given the weaker Chinese market, which has previously been a lucrative outlet for minimally processed product, according to AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins.

The September total for sow and adult boar slaughter reached 25,900 head. This was around 3,200 more (+14%) than in the same month last year.

“Nonetheless, for the year so far, the number of adult pigs slaughtered is still only about 3% higher than a year earlier. While sow slaughter levels don’t appear to be unusually high overall, herd contraction may still be underway if the replacement rate is lower. High production costs have led to poor profitability for pig producers this year,” Ms Wilkins added.

UK clean pig slaughter to October 2021

The average clean pig carcase weight in September was 1.5kg above the year earlier level at 88.6kg. This was also 800g more than in the previous month, with the ongoing rise in weights reflecting the delays to slaughter.

The rise in carcase weights, combined with the slight growth in slaughter levels, means pig meat production in September was 3% higher than last year at 85,000 tonnes. This was also the highest monthly production figure since April.

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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.