News header Mobile news header
17 January 2022

EU forecasts for the meat sector in the next decade

Reading time
4 min.
News sections

On 9 December the European Commission presented its forecast report "EU Agricultural Outlook for Markets Income and Environment 2021-2031". It analyses current and future uncertainties for the sector, such as the evolution of the PPP, trade agreements with the UK and environmental concerns.

Global consumption could grow by 1.4% per year due to population and income growth in developing countries. In contrast, the emergence of sustainability, environmental awareness and consumer health concerns could cut per capita meat consumption in the EU to 67 kg in 2031.

The report analyses some of the most representative livestock and meat sectors individually.

Pigs: annual decline of 0.8% in meat production, highly dependent on the recovery of production in China as well as exports, although the EU will continue to lead world pig exports. The combination of aspects such as health, environment and consumer preferences could lead to lower pork consumption.

Beef: Declining cattle numbers will lead to lower production and higher imports. Consumption forecasts point to a decrease of 0.9 kg per capita. The EU foresees an increase in meat exports in the medium term, while live exports will fall due to transport concerns and lower demand from Turkey and Maghreb countries. 

Sheep: growth in production, consumption and exports. Live exports will decline due to animal welfare concerns and financial risk. Sheep meat imports will recover in the short term, although Australia and New Zealand will focus more on Asian markets.

World meat consumption is expected to continue to grow by 1.4 per cent annually, thanks to population growth and higher incomes in developing countries. An additional 3.4 million tons of global meat imports will be needed to close the gap between domestic consumption and production in many countries.

Sustainability is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in EU meat markets, both for producers and consumers. As consumers' environmental awareness, health considerations and convenience trends change, EU per capita meat consumption is expected to decrease slightly to 67 kg by 2031.

Following the decline in the EU beef herd, beef production is expected to decline. Beef consumption in the EU is expected to decrease by 0.9 kg per capita following the long-term trend. Beef export opportunities may improve in the medium term but will be offset by a decline in live exports due to lower demand in Turkey and animal welfare concerns due to long distance transport. EU beef imports could also increase slowly but remain below the 2019 level due to high global demand.

In pigs, the recovery of China's production capacity may have a negative impact on EU exports. In addition, health, environmental and social concerns could alienate consumer preferences, leading to an annual decline in production of 0.8% in the period 2021-2031. Nevertheless, the EU is likely to remain the world's largest exporter of pig meat.

In the case of poultry meat, the increase in EU meat demand and poultry production is expected to slow down. Consumers still see it as a healthy and sustainable product. Exports should continue to benefit from the valorisation of specific cuts that are less in demand in the EU, but expansion will be limited by competition. Imports, mainly from food services, are expected to recover close to pre-COVID-19 levels.

EU production and consumption of sheep meat and goatmeat are projected to increase slightly. Live exports are expected to decline, mainly due to animal welfare and financial risk concerns. Meat exports are expected to recover because of the consolidation of trade with the UK and its partners in the Middle East. Sheep meat imports will recover in the short term, but Australia and New Zealand will focus more on Asian markets.

However, the current uncertainties surrounding the spread of African swine fever in different regions of the world and the EU, the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations between the UK and other countries and growing concerns about the contribution of EU feed imports to deforestation could impose significant challenges on the UK meat sector future.