AHDB: Beef and lamb market monthly update - January 2024

GB deadweight prices for both cow and prime cattle increased week on week in January, with overall higher prices than December.

Posted on Feb 29 ,00:25

AHDB: Beef and lamb market monthly update - January 2024


The all-prime average price for January (490.6p/kg) matched figures seen back in Spring 2023. Prices began the month at 487.2p/kg, climbing slightly for the first three weeks, before ending the month at 491.4p.

The overall average cow price for January was 335.2p/kg, at its highest since July 2023. Weekly prices increased by 25p/kg from the beginning of the month. As indicated in the beef outlook, firm consumer demand for cheaper primary cuts such as mince could have contributed towards this.

Fuel prices fell again in January, despite continued conflict in the Middle East, which threatens crude oil prices. Fertiliser prices similarly fell in January, continuing a slight decline. However, fertiliser prices remain historically elevated following the continued Russia-Ukraine war and European energy crisis. Wheat prices are pressured from weak demand and falling export prices in Russia.

Beef production in January grew to 80,700 tonnes, up 5% year on year and 20% month on month against a relatively low December, according to Defra. Prime cattle slaughter totalled 177,800 head for the month, up 4% year-on-year. Carcase weights have risen slightly from December, averaging 346kg, just below the 5-year average.

Cow slaughter in January was up by 17% month on month and sat above the 5-year average, at 57,700 head. There was an extra working day in January 2024 compared to January 2023, which may explain some of the annual increases recorded in monthly cattle slaughter.

December imports for fresh and frozen beef were down by 14% year on year to 18,547 tonnes, further tightening the marketplace and likely offering further support to cattle prices. Beef exports also decreased in December totalling 8,134 tonnes. This figure was down by 21% year on year. From a high base in November, exports decreased by 27% month on month. 


The deadweight OSL SQQ measure started the year off strong. Prices in the first week of January started at 615.6p/kg for the week ending 6 Jan, before falling by around 10p in the second week. Prices rebounded slightly in the third week before ending the month with growth of 24p to 631.8p. The agri-market outlook for 2024 forecasts a smaller carry-over into the 2024 season, providing strength to prices in times of tighter supply.

January saw a fall in both throughputs and tonnage of sheep meat on December’s levels (which saw extra demand from Christmas) but they remain elevated from 2023. The UK produced 23,200 tonnes of sheep meat in January, a fall of 10% from December. Clean sheep slaughter totalled 984,000 head for January, a decline of 14% from December. There was an extra working day in January 2024 compared with January 2023, which may explain some of the annual increases recorded in monthly sheep production.

Exports of sheep meat in December grew to nearly 10,000 tonnes, with an annual change of +27% and a monthly increase of 20%.

Imports of sheep meat totalled 3,200 tonnes for December, a fall of 25% from November, but growth of 33% compared with 2022. We continue to monitor the levels of imports from Australia and New Zealand as the new quota years are in effect from January.

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