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New data suggests UK pig production could face challenges in August

Analysis from Duncan Wyatt shows that the UK's pork production was steady in July, but could face headwinds due to labor shortages at slaughterhouses.

18 August 2021, at 9:31am

UK clean pig slaughter in July was broadly steady on June’s level, at 940,000 head, following a downward revision to June’s figure, according to Defra data. Average carcase weights were 86.7kg, only 200g heavier than in June. This, combined with a small drop in sow slaughter, meant UK production overall was also similar to June at 84,600 tonnes. July’s production figure was, however, 2% lower than during the same month last year.

Nonetheless, there have recently been increasing reports that slaughtering British pigs has become challenging. COVID-19 related staff absences appear to have given way to underlying issues with staff availability. Abattoir staff that had been prevented by travel restrictions from visiting family in the EU are now taking the opportunity to do so. In some cases, they are taking extended leaves of absence. There appears to be a shortage of both slaughter and boning hall staff across the sector, as plants struggle to source replacements.

Our SPP sample had recorded an 8% decline in GB clean pig numbers during July, compared to last year. So, we were perhaps expecting a larger year-on-year decline in slaughter numbers to be reported. However, it may be that within-company traded pigs, which are not included in the SPP, have been less affected by any slaughter delays. There are certainly reports of producers rolling pigs again as they did at the beginning of the year. How the situation develops in the coming weeks will be critical.

In the year to date, 600,000 tonnes of pig meat have been produced, a year on year increase of 7%.

Words: Duncan Wyatt