Agricultural production - animals

Data extracted in October 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update of the article : November 2016.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat online publication "Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics". It presents information on livestock and meat production in the European Union (EU).

Table 1: Livestock numbers per EU Member State, 2014
(million heads)
Source: Eurostat (apro_mt_lscatl), (apro_mt_lspig), (apro_mt_lssheep) and (apro_mt_lsgoat)
Figure 1: Production of meat, by type of animal in tonnes, EU-28, 2005–14
(2005 = 100)
Source: Eurostat (apro_mt_pann)
Table 2: Production of meat, by type of animal, 2014
(1 000 tonnes of carcass weight)
Source: Eurostat (apro_mt_pann)
Table 3: Production of beef and veal, by type of bovine animals, 2014
(1 000 tonnes of carcass weight)
Source: Eurostat (apro_mt_pann)
Figure 2: Production of meat, 2014
(% of EU-28 total)
Source: Eurostat (apro_mt_pann)

Main statistical findings

Livestock numbers

Since the early 1980s, there has been a steady downward trend in the number of livestock on agricultural holdings across the EU.

In 2014, looking at EU Member States, Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom held the largest number of livestock. The largest number of pigs was recorded in Germany and Spain (28.3 and 26.6 million heads respectively), bovines in France (19.3 million heads) and sheep (23.0 million heads) in the United Kingdom, as shown in Table 1.

Meat production

There have been considerable structural changes in EU livestock farming since the 1980s. Smallholders on mixed farms have gradually given way to larger-scale, specialised livestock holdings.

Pig meat production for the EU-28 increased 0.9 % from 2013 to 2014, reaching 22.1 million tonnes. The production of pig meat fluctuated within a relatively narrow range (+/– 6 %) during the 2005–14 period. The production of meat of adult cattle also increased by 1.3 % between 2013 and 2014. Poultry meat production rose by an estimated 3.8 % between 2013 and 2014 confirming the upward trends in the production of this type of meat in recent years (Figure 1).

By contrast, between 2013 and 2014 sheep, goat and veal meat production decreased by 0.7 %, 2.7 % and 2.7 % respectively (see Figure 1 and Table 2).

While ‘veal’ reflects slaughtering of bovine animals younger than one year (calves and young cattle), ‘beef’ reflects slaughtering of older bovine animals. Beef is mainly produced from cattle breeds grown specifically for their meat but can also come from dairy cattle. Male calves from dairy cows are of no use for producing milk and most of these are used for veal production. Just less than two thirds of the bovine meat produced in the EU-28 came from either bulls (33 %) or cows (30 %) in 2014 (Table 3). In many EU Member States this proportion was even higher. However in Ireland and the United Kingdom a majority (65 % and 68 % respectively) of the beef produced in 2014 came from heifers (over one-year old females that did not calve) and bullocks (over one-year old castrated males).

Germany produced about one quarter (24.9 % or 5.5 million tonnes) of the EU-28’s pig meat in 2014, while Spain produced one sixth (16.4 % or 3.6 million tonnes) of the total (Figure 2).

France (19.1 %), Germany (17.0 %) and the United Kingdom (13.7 %) made up almost half (49.8 %) of total EU-28 beef production in 2014. Beef production in each of these countries was higher in 2014 than a year earlier. The growth rate was higher in the United Kingdom (3.4 %), in Germany it was (2.4 %) and in France the production of beef grew 1.5 % between 2013 and 2014, still above the EU-28 growth rate (1.3 %).

The United Kingdom (39.7 %) and Spain (16.4 %) contributed with 56.1 % of total EU-28 sheep and goat meat production in 2014.

Germany, France, Poland, and the United Kingdom, each accounted for 12 to 14 % of the total production of poultry meat in the EU-28 in 2014.

Data sources and availability

Livestock and meat statistics are collected by EU Member States under Regulation (EC) No 1165/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008, which covers bovine, pig, sheep and goat livestock; slaughtering statistics on bovine animals, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry; and production forecasts for beef, veal, pig meat, sheep meat and goat meat.

Livestock surveys cover sufficient agricultural holdings to account for at least 95 % of the national livestock population, as determined by the last survey on the structure of agricultural holdings.

Bovine and pig livestock statistics are produced twice a year, with reference to a given day in May/June and a given day in November/ December. Those EU Member States whose bovine animal populations are below 1.5 million head or whose pig populations are below 3.0 million head may produce these statistics only once a year, with reference to a given day in November/December. The November/ December results are available for all EU Member States and are used in this article.

Sheep livestock statistics are only produced once a year, with reference to a given day in November/December, by those EU Member States whose sheep populations are 500 000 head or above; the same criteria and thresholds apply for statistics on goat populations.

Statistics on the slaughtering of animals in slaughterhouses are produced monthly by each EU Member State, the reference period being the calendar month. Statistics on slaughtering carried out other than in slaughterhouses is produced annually, the reference period being the calendar year.

Context

Statistics on livestock and meat production (based on the slaughter of animals fit for human consumption) give some indication of supply-side developments and adjustments, which are important to monitor the Common agricultural policy (CAP).

Back in 1959, the initial objective of the EU agriculture policy was to feed the EU population. Today’s CAP has evolved substantially since these early efforts and is striving to tackle new challenges in search of a fairer and greener more competitive agriculture.

The main aims of the CAP are to improve agricultural productivity, so that consumers can benefit from a stable supply of affordable food, while making sure that EU farmers can make a reasonable living.

Supply of affordable animal food products refers especially to meat and dairy products (but also eggs and honey). In order to limit uncertainty, EU institutions in charge of market support interpret the market signals using livestock numbers for their forecasts. The numbers of breeders on the one hand (for dairy or meat production), and animal stocks being grown and fattened on the other, contribute to preparing measures that will ensure a more stable — or at least more secure — market, benefitting both consumers and farmers.

The European Commission has been active in harmonising animal health measures and systems of disease surveillance, diagnosis and control; it has also developed a legal framework for trade in live animals and animal products. Ensuring the high quality of food is one of the various challenges to be met in order to secure the food supply of EU citizens.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation

Publications

Main tables

Agricultural production (t_apro)
Poultry farming (t_apro_ec)
Livestock and meat (t_apro_mt)

Database

Agricultural production (apro)
Poultry farming (apro_ec)
Livestock and meat (apro_mt)
Meat production (apro_mt_p)
Livestock (apro_mt_ls)
Structure of rearing (apro_mt_str)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

External links