Beef demand rising while production is stable

Domestic demand for beef is rising slowly, in contrast to the decline in sheepmeat consumption.

With a background of economic growth and low unemployment, the sector is expected to benefit from more meals being eaten outside the home.

However, AHDB warns in its latest UK beef market outlook that food price inflation remains a risk.

Production is set to remain relatively stable, with a 1% increase forecast for next year, followed by a fall in 2019 and 2020.

The impact of slightly higher cattle numbers coming through is generally expected to be offset by the trend to lower overall average finished carcass weights.

Beef highlights

  • Relatively stable UK production, consumption slowly rising  
  • Imports are up 2% so far this year while exports are down 7%
  • Higher imports forecast next year but falling in 2019 and 2020
  • Export prospects limited more by availability than currency

See also: Prospects for UK meat markets post Brexit

While steer and young bull carcasses are on average 5.5kg and 2kg lower so far this year than last, heifer and cow weights have risen slightly. AHDB’s forecast see further reductions in prime carcass weights through to 2020.

The national dairy herd is expected to fall in the next couple of years while the suckler herd is expected to stabilise, in both cases because of uncertainty over Brexit, says AHDB.

For the second year in a row, there has been little or no growth in overall calf registrations, although beef numbers are up while dairy calf registrations have fallen.  

Actual and forecast UK supplies of beef and veal 

000 tonnes

 

2016

2017 (f)

2018 (f)

2019 (f)

2020 (f)

Production

 

908

893

902

901

896

Imports

 

426

435

443

439

434

 

(Fresh/frozen)

(326)

(332)

(339)

(335)

(332)

 

(Processed)

(100)

(103)

(105)

(104)

(102)

Exports

 

143

133

144

129

111

Total consumption

1,191

 

1,194

1,202

1,211

1,219

Totals may not sum due to rounding, (f) = forecast. Source: Defra, HMRC, AHDB