UK Pig Meat Market Trends

ANALYSIS- A summary of the trends in the pig industry in the UK by senior editor, Jackie Linden, based on the new edition of the 'Pig Pocketbook' from BPEX.
calendar icon 15 May 2013
clock icon 7 minute read

The Pig Pocketbook 2013, just published by the British Pig Executive (BPEX), part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1 – Marketing chain
  • Chapter 2 – Pig numbers
  • Chapter 3 – Abattoirs
  • Chapter 4 – Slaughterings and production
  • Chapter 5 – Livestock and meat prices
  • Chapter 6 – Imports and exports
  • Chapter 7 – Consumption
  • Chapter 8 – Pig carcass classification data
  • Chapter 9 – Feed prices

Marketing Chain

In 2012, pig meat production amounted to 825,000 tonnes, up from 806,000 tonnes in 2011. 2013 output is forecast down slightly at 822,000 tonnes.

Imports of pig meat in 2011 were 960,000 tonnes and 978,000 tonnes in 2012. The forecast is for this to drop back markedly to 915,000 tonnes this year.

Exports have been stable over the last two years at a little over 200,000 tonnes and are expected to remain at that level in 2013.

This means that total consumption increased from 1.559 million tonnes in 2011 to 1.600 million tonnes last year; the 2013 forecast is 1.531 million tonnes.

Self-sufficiency in pig meat in the UK is 51.7, 51.5 and 53.7 per cent in 2011, 2012 and 2013 (forecast), respectively.

Pig Numbers

The agriculture department (Defra) conducts an annual census of pig numbers in June. Compared to 2011, there were more pregnant sows in 2012 (279,000 and 293,000, respectively). However, the total female breeding herd was lower at 425,000 compared to 432,000 the year before.

The number of gilts for breeding was markedly up (2011: 75,000; 2012: 82,000).

At 3.978 million, there were 41,000 more fattening pigs in the country in June 2012 than 12 months previously.


At the last count - in 2012 - 121 slaughterhouses in the UK handled pigs, four fewer than the previous year, of which 14 and 16, respectively were specialist pig abattoirs. Average annual throughput was just under 68,000 head in 2012.

Large facilities - slaughtering more than half a million pigs annually - accounted for 67 per cent of pigs slaughtered in all abattoirs and 84 per cent of those processed in specialist slaughterhouses.

Slaughterings and Production

More sows and boars were slaughtered last year (2011: 250,000; 2012: 265,000) and more clean pigs (2011: 9,813 million; 2012: 10.035 million) and therefore more pigs overall (2011: 10.063 million; 2012: 10.299 million).

Average carcass weight has remained stable at a little over 78kg since 2009.

Average sow productivity - based on calculated values rather than a survey - has improved steadily since 2009 and in 2012 stood at 22.3 pigs and 1,748kg meat per sow and year.

Livestock & Meat Prices

Comparing per-kilo deadweight (DAPP) prices month by month, most figures for clean pigs were higher in 2012 than the same month of the previous year. The differences were negative in June and July but prices were more than eight per cent better in the last quarter of the year than the comparable months in 2011.

There was a different pattern for cull sow prices, with improvements of around 30 per cent at the start of 2012 trending downwards during 2012 to become negative in November and December.

GB weaner prices finished the year at £46.14 per head, or almost five per cent higher than in December 2011.

Comparing retail and producer prices for pig meat, the latter's share has been within the range of 38 to 40 per cent of the retail price since 2009, with just a hint of an upward trend for 2012.

Imports and Exports

In 2012, UK imports - at a little over 885,000 tonnes and worth almost £2.17 billion - were higher than the year before. The increases were the result of higher volumes and values of imported sausages and processed hams, shoulders etc, while those for fresh/frozen meat and bacon were less than 2011 levels.

Denmark was the leading source of fresh/frozen meat imports, accounting for about 28 per cent of the total. Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium and Spain also exported significant volumes to the UK and small amounts also came from Chile and the US.

Denmark and the Netherlands shared almost equally between them the total bacon imports to the UK last year.

Turning to UK exports of pig meat, the total volume in 2012 (191,515 tonnes) was lower than the previous year (194,874 tonnes). Increases in volume in the fresh/frozen, sausages and processed hams and shoulders were all up but bacon exports - at a little over 15,500 tonnes - were less than half of the figure for 2011. The value of all pig meat exports was up from almost £272 million in 2011 to £275.6 million in 2012.

Several of the top destinations for UK pig meat were in the EU - Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark - but substantial and increasing volumes found their way to Hong Kong, China, the US, South Korea and Japan.


Multiples account for the overwhelming majority of pork and bacon sales in the UK - 85.0 and 88.1 per cent of the respective totals in 2012.

Per-capita consumption was 25.4kg in 2012, up from 24.9kg the previous year.

In retail volume terms, fresh pork and frozen or loose sausages lost ground in 2012, while sales of bacon, sliced ham and sliced pork were all higher than in 2011. Interestingly, for a period of economic problems, it was the higher-value items (on a per-kilo basis) whose sales went up and the cheaper products declined.

Except for loose sausages, between one-third and one half all sales in each product category was on promotion.

The latest figures (for January 2013) reveal that the percentage of the various categories of products of UK origin were: pork, 82 per cent; bacon, 48 per cent; ham, 60 per cent and sausages, 81 per cent. The percentages with the Red Tractor assurance scheme mark were 60, 27, 25 and 46 per cent, respectively.

Pig Carcass Classification Data

Based on data from the Meat and Livestock Commercial Services (MLCSL) Independent Authentication Service, pig carcass weights followed a typical distribution curve with the median value of 75 to 80kg. For 2012, there was a tendency towards lighter carcasses and as a result, the average for the sample was 78.7kg, down from 79.1kg in 2011.

Almost 80 per cent of carcasses achieved the highest 'S' grade and the rest were a grade 'E'. Just one per cent of carcasses were graded 'U' or 'R'.

P2 fat depths have been showing a minimal decline for the last decade for all weight bands.

Feed Prices

Average compound feed prices per tonne for quarters 1, 2, 3 and 4 of 2012 were £247, £258, £268 and £282, respectively. These compare with £209 in 2009, £217 in 2010 and £255 in 2011.

While feed wheat prices fluctuated round a slowly rising trend throughout 2012 of around £200 per tonne, soybean meal prices jumped up in mid-2012 from around £300 per tonne and seem to have stabilised at a higher plateau of around £500 per tonne ever since.

Further Reading

You can view the Pig Pocketbook 2013 by clicking here.

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