February 2022 Meat Market Report

Beef

In the second week of 2022, average prices for prime cattle came under a little pressure but is still 36p higher than the same week a year ago.
Reports suggest that restaurant demand after the festive period is sluggish and could be dampening prices for higher-end cuts like steak. If sustained, this could impact on carcase balance.

Prime cattle kill in GB abattoirs was estimated to be 23,100 head during the week, 18% higher than the week before but 28% lower than a year ago. However, the same week last year did not contain a bank holiday. Reports suggest that COVID-19 related absences in plants is affecting throughput.

For cull cows, price strength continued, with the overall deadweight average up 0.7p on the week to 266.2p/kg. A total of 8,000 cows were estimated to have been processed in GB abattoirs during the week.

The average prices paid for prime cattle in Ireland for the week ending January 1st, 2022 as recorded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, were €4.31/kg for R3 steers, and €4.35/kg for R3 heifers. These prices have increased over the previous weeks and remain stable. This weekly Steer price is 56c/kg or 15% higher than the corresponding week in 2020, and 21% above the corresponding week in 2019. The total average price paid for Irish R3 steers in 2021 is €4.09/kg (ex VAT). which is 46c/kg or 13% higher than the same period in 2020

Global prices are strong, and across Europe, average R3 young bull prices have seen very strong growth rates over the last number of weeks to €4.45/kg excluding VAT. Irish R3 steers lie just below this figure at €4.30/kg. The UK Average R3 price has remained strong at €4.89/kg. Australia R3 steer prices lifted slightly to €4.68/kg and are expected to remain high.

Lamb

Strength in GB lamb prices continued around the ring as we moved into the New Year. In the week ending 5 Jan, the GB liveweight NSL SQQ averaged 280.3p/kg, up 2.2p from the week before, and up 36.2p on the same week a year ago. The liveweight OSL SQQ averaged 273.1p/kg, up 40.6p from the same week a year ago. Estimated lamb throughputs for the week ending 5 Jan totalled 88,000, up 12% from the week before.

On the deadweight front, the NSL SQQ averaged 608.3p/kg in the week ending 25 Dec, down 12.1p from the week before. The estimated kill for the week was 192,000 head, 19% below the week before.

During the week ending 1 Jan, the deadweight OSL SQQ averaged 616.5p/kg, up nearly 130p from the same week a year ago. The estimated kill for the week was 144,900 head, down 25% from the week before.

Pork

Pork remains relatively unchanged over the last few weeks. The estimated weekly clean pig throughput totalled 143,000 head, which remains low. Carcase weights reached an average of 95.1kg, up almost 3kg on average a fortnight ago and again the highest on record. Weights are about 4.7kg above year-earlier levels. Probe measurements have been a little volatile recently and increased again to an average of 11.8mm in the week; this was also recorded a few weeks ago and remains the highest probe measurement for the SPP sample since the series began. We clearly continue to see heavier, fatter pigs coming forward as a result of slaughter delays, also compounded by the festive period.

Looking at the average price for just those pigs weighing 70-104.9kg, this was 143.85p/kg, only a drop of 1.24p on the week. Higher numbers of pigs outside normal contract specifications will have contributed to the drop in the SPP. Only 84% of the SPP sample fell within the 70-104.9kg bracket in the latest week, which compares to 87% the previous week and a longer-term average closer to 93%.

The EU-spec APP stood at 148.04p/kg in the week ended 1 January. This was a smaller decline than that seen in the SPP during the same week, of only 0.81p. This meant the gap between the two-price series widened to a substantial 7.49p, the largest difference since the series began.

China has had a great influence on pork and other protein prices over the last few years now have a sow herd of 4.7% higher in November than the previous year. Slaughterhouses with an annual production capacity of 20,000 head and above slaughtered 235.89 million pigs in the first 11 months of the year, up 66.1% from a year ago. Germany however has the smallest pig population for 25 years, within this, the number of sows totalled 1.57 million head, a decline of 7% compared with a year earlier. Poor market conditions, influenced by the presence of African Swine Fever within the German wild boar herd, which limits export opportunities, will be influencing the decline. There are also concerns around the further spread of this disease within Germany and regulatory changes. The number of holdings keeping pigs was down to 18,800 in the latest survey, an 8% decline in 2020.

Poultry

Challenges lay ahead for the UK poultry industry with more cases of avian influenza H5N1. Since the start of the bird flu season in late October, there have been 63 cases of avian influenza H5N1 in England alone compared to just 26 last year. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have also confirmed numerous outbreaks, which is the UK’s largest ever bird flu outbreak.

The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss has urged keepers not to be complacent and to enact biosecurity measures to help stop the spread of bird flu. “We are seeing a growing number of bird flu cases both on commercial farms and in backyard birds right across the country,” she said.

Europe is fearing no better with avian influenza Since October, the virus has been detected 675 times in wild birds, and 534 outbreaks have been reported in domestic (backyard and commercial) animals. In addition, the virus has also been detected in mammals in several countries: in foxes in the Netherlands and Finland, in seals in Germany and Sweden, and in otters in Finland.

Dutch poultry organisation, Avined, also warns that the situation in Europe remains very tense. In recent days, outbreaks have been identified at a large layer farm in Veurne, Belgium, and at a turkey farm.

Costs are expected to remain high with higher labour, feed, transportation, and energy costs.

With economies reopening with lesser restrictions poultry demand is expected to grow.

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