Survey shows rise in lambs and cattle hitting spec

Almost 59% of lambs and 47% of cattle slaughtered in Great Britain were classified at R conformation in 2021 – up slightly on 2020 levels.

New analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), based on AHDB data, signals that livestock farmers continue to make improvements in meeting the target customer and market specifications.

Latest information, collected from more than 116,000 lamb carcasses at GB abattoirs, showed a 1.4% increase in the proportion of animals achieving the target conformation of an R.

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Carcasses were also leaner on average than in 2020, with 63% achieving the target grades of E, U or R conformation and 2 or 3L fatness – a significant increase from 57% in 2020.

Cattle results

The results for prime cattle, based on 1.7m carcasses, showed a 1.5% increase in the number achieving an R conformation during the year.

There was a decrease in the proportion of leaner cattle presented, with an increase in the number of cattle achieving 4L, 4H and 5L fat class grades.

However, an increasing proportion of prime cattle – 38% – did hit the target grades of R3 and R4L, which is 1.1% higher than in 2020.

HCC data analyst Glesni Phillips said: “Consistently strong prices for beef cattle last year may have tempted some farmers to hold on to animals for longer to fatten, which will partly explain the heavier carcass weights.”

The increase in the number of animals meeting R3 or R4L was positive news for the beef sector, as these would typically achieve a processor’s base price, she said.

“Meeting customer and market specifications should be seen as the aim for both lamb and beef producers – particularly during a time where farm input costs are experiencing significant increases that will inevitably impact producer’s profits.

“These specifications are established by understanding customer requirements while trying to achieve production and processing efficiencies.

“Any carcass [beef or lamb] produced outside these specifications will invariably lead to penalties and increased costs for those in the supply chain.”