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AHDB Pig Market Weekly

01 February 2012

AHDB  UK Market Survey - 27 January 2012AHDB UK Market Survey - 27 January 2012

Consumers spent £293 million on fresh and frozen red meat this December, three per cent more than in the corresponding period in 2010.


Consumers spend more on red meat at Christmas

Increased average prices drove the increase in expenditure. A combination of fewer promotions and food price inflation meant beef, lamb and pork prices were all higher than in the previous year.

In the four weeks to 25 December the volume of purchases across all red meat categories and chicken were lower compared to the previous year. In December 2010 snowy conditions meant consumers purchased more on each shopping trip to ensure they were adequately stocked. This significantly increased red meat purchases, in particular beef. The same weather conditions did not occur this year, with December 2011 far warmer and drier. As expected, household purchases declined year on year.

As a result of the irregular trade pattern in December 2010, we have analysed how the latest December performance compared to the previous five years. This reflects a far more positive position, with pork purchases eight per cent higher and beef purchases up slightly on the five year average. Lamb purchases are almost two per cent lower compared to the past five year average, with reduced supply brought about by exceptional market conditions contributing to this.

In the 52-week period ended 25 December, lamb purchases and expenditure declined on the year with roasting joints the worst performing cut over the year as a whole. Lower import volumes and higher exports have limited availability in the year as a whole. Processors have been able to command a high export price, and as a result there was less pressure on retailers to promote their lamb offering. Availability has been the major factor in 2011, but high retail prices, in particular compared to pork and chicken, also encouraged consumers to switch to cheaper protein alternatives.

Household purchases of beef also declined during 2011, however expenditure increased one per cent as a result of a four per cent increase in price. In particular, purchases of roasting joints and steaks declined on the year, as consumers switched to cheaper protein alternatives, especially pigmeat and chicken. However, these cuts did perform better intermittently during the year, almost solely when they were heavily promoted by the major retailers. In the first half of 2011 mince and stewing beef performed strongly. Both products are relatively cheap, versatile and a key ingredient in component cooking, which has grown in-home during 2011. However, in the last quarter of 2011 purchases of mince and stewing beef were lower year on year. In the last three months of the year increased beef exports reduced the domestic supply. Similar to lamb, this reduced the availability of retailers to offer price promotions on fresh beef.

In 2011 pork benefitted from being the cheapest red meat, in a period where consumers were looking to economise on their food expenditure. Both volume purchases and expenditure increased on the year. In particular, purchases of frying and grilling cuts increased, largely as a result of long-term promotion deals such as 3 items for £10. In 2011 pork belly was the best performing cut, purchases increased five per cent on the year. Belly represents a cheap roasting joint alterative which consumers have turned to, from beef and lamb and from other pork roasting joints.

Pig market trends


The sharp fall in prices recorded since the New Year continued in week ended 21 January with the Eurospec DAPP falling by just over two pence to 143.35p per kg. This was its lowest level since April last year. Reduced demand during the post-Christmas period is still the main driver of price, coupled with cheap supplies from elsewhere in the EU. Price falls on the continent have been even more pronounced, although they now appear to be stabilising as supplies are reportedly tight. Nevertheless, the DAPP was still almost seven pence higher than a year earlier.

Although demand appears to be the main driver of price, supplies have also been high and estimated throughputs so far this year are 14 per cent higher than in the same period of 2011. The quality of pigs this week was unchanged, with the average carcase weight, 80.02kg, and average probe measurement, 11.2mm, identical to the previous week.

The market for weaners remains well balanced, with the average 30kg price easing back a few pence to £44.61 per head in week ending 28 January. Uncertainty about feed prices, which have again risen over the last week, along with the fall in finished pig prices, mean that finishers appear to be reluctant to pay higher prices for the time being.


In the latest 12-week period to 25 December 2011, data from Kantar Worldpanel showed that purchases of fresh and frozen pork, increased marginally compared to the corresponding period a year ago to 44,000 tonnes. As a result of a six per cent increase in the average price expenditure increased by the same amount to £212 million. The increase in the average price was largely as a result of reduced promotional activity by retailers in the last quarter of 2011, especially on shoulder roasting joints.

Belly and frying and grilling cuts were the drivers of the increased household purchases and have been the focus of retailer’s fresh pork promotional activity during the 12-week period. Household purchases of pork belly increased 14 per cent, whilst sales of frying and grilling cuts increased one per cent. In contrast, purchases of leg roasting joints declined 17 per cent year on year in December. Retailers significantly reduced the amount of promotions offered compared to December 2010.

Cattle market trends


In week ended 21 January the deadweight cattle trade fluctuated. The overall steer average was 329.7p per kg, down a penny on the week, while the average price of R4L carcases at 337.8p per kg was little changed on the week. The overall heifer average strengthened a penny to 332.4p per kg while the price of R4L heifers eased marginally to 334.4p per kg. With cattle numbers short reports suggest that there has been some upward pressure on prices in the current week as processors attempted to source adequate supplies. AHDB estimated slaughterings indicate that throughputs in the first three weeks of this year are 14 per cent down on year earlier levels.

Following the fall in price last week, with demand on the continent firming and processors returning to full weekly volumes the -04L cow average increased two pence on the week to 255.0p per kg.

Largely as a result of an increase in prices in the first three days of this week, in week ended 25 January, the liveweight prime cattle trade at GB auction markets strengthened. Steers were three pence dearer at 183.5p per kg, young bulls a penny dearer at 175.3p per kg and heifers leveled at 186.1p per kg.


In the latest 12-week period to 25 December 2011, data from Kantar Worldpanel showed that household purchases of fresh and frozen beef fell by nine per cent compared to the same period last year to 74,000 tonnes. However, an 11 per cent increase in the average retail price resulted in expenditure increasing marginally on the year to £483 million. Household purchases of all cuts declined year on year with sales of roasting joints and frying and grilling cuts falling to the greatest extent, down 18 and 11 per cent respectively.

The average retail price of beef increased compared to the year earlier as retailers reduced the number of price reduction promotions offered on beef cuts. This further encouraged consumers to switch to cheaper proteins. In addition, December 2010 was a very strong month for beef sales with a significant increase in purchases as a result of the inclement weather conditions. The warmer weather this year has meant that the same level of purchases was not repeated.

Sheep market trends


The deadweight SQQ in week ended 21 January fell nearly six pence to average 438.5p per kg.

At GB auction markets the liveweight trade firmed in week ended 25 January as reports indicated that export demand was stronger from Thursday 19 January onwards. At 202.5p per kg the SQQ was nearly five pence higher than in the preceding week, when prices had been under pressure, as the number of lambs marketed appeared to decline.

Cull ewe prices also firmed in the face of some downturn in numbers with the average price increasing by 40 pence per head to £76.20.


In week ended 21 January, at 195,000 head AHDB estimated lamb slaughtering in GB were little changed week on week. However when compared with the corresponding week a year ago lamb supplies were much tighter. In the year to date estimated slaughterings indicate that lamb throughputs at GB abattoirs have been 13 per cent lower than in the corresponding period a year ago. This decline is likely to be the result of the excellent conditions in 2011 which led to stock being finished quicker and the absence of any serious weather disruptions over the winter period preventing any significant carryover of lambs into 2012.


According to Kantar Worldpanel in the latest 12- week period ending 25 December household purchases of fresh and frozen lamb totalled 16,500 tonnes, 14 per cent lower than in the corresponding period a year earlier. All cuts of lamb contributed to the decline in purchases. Sales of chops and steaks were down 15 per cent while purchases of lamb mince declined 22 per cent. Previously in 2011, declining roasting joint purchases drove the fall in overall household purchases of lamb, but a good performance over the Christmas period slowed this decline somewhat.

Processors continued to command a high export price, which meant reduced domestic availability and less pressure on retailers to promote their lamb offering. As a result, in the 12-week period the average retail price increased 14 per cent on the year and expenditure totalled £138 million.

January 2012

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