March 2022 Meat Market Report

Beef

There was a small drop in the GB all-prime average deadweight cattle price in February, but the all-prime price is still 28.3p above the same week a year ago and 52.4p above the 5-year average.

According to the latest Defra UK production figures, 152,700 prime cattle were processed during the first month of 2022. This was 2% more than December, but 10% down in January 2021, and marks the lowest January prime cattle kill on record.

Prime cattle supplies remain on the tighter side compared to a year ago, while industry reports suggest that COVID-19 has caused staff shortages in some abattoirs. Cattle population figures suggest that supplies could remain tighter for a little while yet, before increasing in the second half of 2022.

Lamb

Prices remain firm and in February stood at around 4p below the price recorded for the same week a year ago. Despite this, it was still over 50p/kg dearer than the five-year average for the week.

The number of lambs sold at GB auction marts during the week was estimated at 105,800 head, 5% less than the week before but up 7% from the same week a year ago.

Volumes of lamb imported into the UK has been under pressure for some time now with high demand from Asia and decline in production from both New Zealand and Australia, the effects from both Brexit and Covid-19, the latter causing shipping delays which look likely to remain for a considerable time, will restrict imports into the UK for the foreseeable future.

Imports are expected to decrease by 6% in 2022 and exports to increase by 5%.

Lamb has become a premium product and looks set to remain more expensive than any other meat protein.

Pork

Pork remains relatively unchanged over the last few weeks. GB estimated slaughter is increasing though carcase weights fell very slightly, a substantial 5kg heavier than a year ago.

The backlog of pigs on farms is persistent and likely to remain so for some time, depending on how processing capacity develops over the coming months.

Industry reports suggest that the backlog of pigs on farms won’t be cleared until the second quarter of 2022. This is based on assumptions that UK sow numbers would eventually fall from 415K head to 385K head by mid-year, and that UK slaughter capacity was constrained to around 220K head per week.

Poultry

Little has changed on the UK poultry front with pricing remaining firm, issues still surrounding the industry with lower capacity, labour, and transportation shortages.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 is still being found in the UK with some disease control zones being lifted. More cases have been found in mainland Europe where it is causing great concern. Poland and Netherlands have been hit the hardest.

Small birds are almost non-existent due to culling as well as staffing and capacity in factories. Pricing is already being talked up, and we will be monitoring the situation in Europe very closely.

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