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Chicken Run - Poultry: the UK Pig Industry Challenge

by 5m Editor
24 May 2001, at 12:00am

By Dr John Strak - This month’s Strak report provides the latest data on pork and chicken consumption in Europe, as provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (the data is from the USDA because the UK Ministry doesn’t provide useful numbers like these). The report highlights that the Danish, French, Spanish and Italians have all managed notable increases in pig meat consumption. Only the UK and Holland struggled, with the main challenge in the UK being poultry.

Dr John Strak

Dr Strak's views on the UK and global pig markets are produced in Whole Hog every fortnight. For more details click the link at the foot of the article.

The latest European pork and chicken consumption numbers are presented in two easy-on-the-eye charts. The message they send, however, isn't so easy to absorb if you are a pig producer in the UK.

In short, the charts suggest that we are falling behind the rest of Europe when it comes to increasing per capita pigmeat consumption and leading the rest of Europe when it comes to increasing per capita chicken consumption. It's not my job to explain why this has happened but whoever's job it is should be asked a few searching questions.

The charts have been compiled from the recently released data from the USDA and I have produced average per capita consumption figures for various countries in the years 1996 and 1997, and 2000 and 2001.

I have deliberately avoided using the 1998 and 1999 data because these "surplus" years demonstrate increases in per capita consumption across almost all countries simply because as pigmeat supplies rose consumption also increased.

It's also useful to use two year averages in the comparisons so that we avoid any single year anomalies. I must also point out that the USDA data is only provisional for 2000 and is a forecast for 2001 so there could yet be some variation in these numbers but it's reasonable to use them as an indicator of relative performance.

Looking at the charts we can see right away that even Danish consumers, with the highest pigmeat consumption per capita in the world, have managed to increase their pigmeat consumption by nearly 10% between 1996/97 and 2000/01. That's an extra 6 kg of pigmeat for every man, woman and child in Denmark over the six year period!


France, Germany, Spain and Italy also managed to increase their pigmeat consumption by 8%, 5%, 15%, and 12% respectively.

The Spanish and Italians are only just discovering pigmeat but even the Germans and French managed to crank up their consumption of wurst and saucisson.

The Brits and the Dutch are not expected to keep up with the performance of their European neighbours as they trail in behind them with pigmeat consumption increases of 1% and 0.3% in the same period. Sadly for the British pig producer, the winning performance of the Brits in poultry meat consumption stands out from the USDA data. My second cart illustrates this.

In a mirror image of the Danish performance with pigmeat, the UK's per capita consumption of poultry meat has increased by 10% since 1996/97 and is well ahead of the other European countries shown (chicken consumption in Denmark, by the way, is not provided by the USDA). Our nearest rival in the chicken-eating stakes is Germany with an increase of 7% over the comparison period: then comes Spain with 6% and France with 3% growth.

These French and German figures indicate that it is possible to get pigmeat and poultry meat consumption growing significantly at the same time - at least in countries other than the UK. Interestingly, the Dutch and Italians managed to reduce their poultry meat consumption by about 2% in the six year period. This puts the Dutch pigmeat consumption figure in a better light because it suggests that pork's share of meat consumption improved against its big rival, chicken. Well, I hear you ask, what do all these numbers mean for you?

The answer is that they mean UK consumers consistently prefer chicken to pork or ham, and that they are behaving in a different way than the rest of Europe's consumers.

Just why that's happening isn't clear from these simple statistics but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out where this trend is leading if it isn't corrected.

As I said in my opening paragraph, it's time for some searching questions. See you next month

Reproduced courtesy