Agricultural production - animals
- Data extracted in September 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update of the article: January 2019.
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).
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
In 2016, Spain, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy held the largest populations of livestock in the EU-28. The highest numbers of pigs were recorded in Spain and Germany (29.2 and 27.4 million head respectively), while the highest numbers of bovines was recorded in France (19.0 million head), sheep in the United Kingdom (23.8 million head) ) and goats in Greece (3.9 million head), as shown in Table 1.
As shown in Figure 1 on the livestock population in the EU-28, the population of bovine animals grew by 1.4 % from 2010 to 2016, following a slow but relatively stable growth path. From 2015 to 2016, the bovine population remained stable, with a decrease of only 0.1 %. The population of pigs decreased by 3.4 % over the period 2010-2016, although with more variation year-on-year. The population of sheep fell by 1.5 % over the period, with a slight increase of 1.1 % from 2015 to 2016. The largest relative decrease in the livestock population was reported for goats, with a fall of 3.7 % from 2010 to 2016. However, in 2016, the population of goats increased of 2.0 % compared to the year before.
Veal and beef
While ‘veal’ reflects in this article 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 mothers are of no use for producing milk, and their growth potential for producing beef meat is insufficient. Thus, most of them are used for veal production.
Notably, the end of milk quotas on 31 March 2015 led to increased cow slaughter (4.0 %), reflecting the abandonment of dairy production by some of the smallest farms. In contrast, for the largest farms a strong expansion of the dairy herd was observed in both 2014 and 2015. The cow herd also grew as a result of favourable feed prices and demand for high quality beef meat. However, although the production of beef continued to rise in 2016, the total number of bovine animals in the EU-28 remained relatively stable from 2015 to 2016. Amongst the Member States, a similar dynamics leads to an apparent overall stability hiding contrasted changes. In 10 of them, the dairy herd increased by 8 % from 2013 to 2016 while it decreased by 3.1 % in the 18 other ones, the change representing in each case more than half a million dairy cows.
France (18.7 %), Germany (14.7 %) and the United Kingdom (11.7 %) accounted for almost half (45.2 %) of the total EU-28 beef production in 2016. In each of these countries, production was higher in 2016 than it was a year earlier (see Table 2). The growth in beef production was highest in Cyprus (53.0 %), followed by Romania (29.4 %) and Bulgaria (25.9 %) between 2015 and 2016, distinctly above the EU-28 growth rate of 2.9 %. However, the beef production in Cyprus and Bulgaria still remained among the lowest in the EU-28.
Close to two thirds of the bovine meat produced in the EU-28 in 2016 derived from either bulls or cows (31.4 % for each category) (see Table 3). In many EU Member States those shares were even higher. In the United Kingdom and Ireland a majority of the beef produced in 2016 (68.0 % and 66.1 % respectively) came from heifers (over one-year old females that did never calve) and bullocks (over one-year old castrated males).
The EU cattle price index fell 3.2 % from 2015 to 2016, following a stabilisation in 2015 after the fall in 2014. Nevertheless, the index increased by 7.0 % over the period 2010-2016 (see Figure 4).
Pig meat production for the EU-28 increased by 1.3 % from 2015 to 2016, reaching 23.4 million tonnes.This increase was driven by the export surge of pig meat to China, low feed prices and a higher number of breeding sows (Figure 1 and Table 2). Between 2015-2016 the growth in pig meat production was highest in Slovenia with 12.2 %, closely followed by Luxembourg with 12.1 %. However, it should be noted that these were two of the countries with the lowest production of pig meat in the EU-28 in 2016. In contrast, the largest declines in pig meat production was reported for Malta with -11.2 % and Lithuania with -8.8 %. Malta was the Member State with the lowest pig meat production in 2016 (4.9 thousand tonnes).
Germany produced around one quarter (24.0 %, or 5.6 million tonnes) of the EU-28’s pig meat in 2016, while Spain produced one sixth (17.3 % or 4.1 million tonnes) of the EU-28 total (Figure 3).
From a peak in 2013, the prices for pig meat fell continuously through 2014 and 2015, despite a private storage aid scheme for pig meat. However, the prices recovered in 2016, increasing by 4.7 % compared to 2015. Although the pig meat price index increased by only 0.4% over the period 2010-2016 as a whole, it fell by 13.4 % from 2013 to 2016. The median price of pigs across the Member States was EUR 112 per 100 kg in 2016.
Sheep and goat meat
The expansion of sheep herds in the United Kingdom and Spain, combined with the Italian market´s recovery from Bluetongue disease, led to an increase in sheep meat production for the EU-28 of about 2.5 % from 2014 to 2015. However, in 2016 a decline by -1.5% was recorded, to a total of 713 thousand tonnes of sheep meat. Between 2015 and 2016 the goat meat production in the EU-28 was rather stable (-0.4 %) at 45 thousand tonnes. (Figure 1 and Table 2).
The United Kingdom (40.6 %) and Spain (16.3 %) contributed with almost 57.0 % to the total EU-28 sheep meat production in 2016. Similarly and in line with the ranking of their goat population, the largest producers of goat meat were Greece (46.5 %), Spain (21.9 %) and France (14.4 %), together representing 82.7 % of total EU-28 production.
In 2016, the price index for sheep and goat meat remained roughly at the level of the previous years, decreasing by 0.5 % compared to 2015. Over the period 2010-2016, the index decreased by 1.4 %. In 2016, the median selling price of sheep was EUR 105.3 per 100 kg.
Similar to the pig sector, low feed prices led to a surge in poultry meat production of 5.1 % between 2015 and 2016, continuing the upward trends in the production of this type of meat in recent years (see Figure 2).
Poland contributed 15.8 % to the total EU-28 production of poultry meat in 2016, while Germany, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom each contributed between 10.6 % and 12.4 %. Together, these five Member States provided 61.0 % of the total EU-28 production.
In 2016, the price index for chicken decreased by 4.6 % compared to 2015 and by 12.4 % compared to 2013. This price decrease is considered to be linked to decreased feed costs and to prices having adjusted downwards to increased production. In 2016, the median price of chickens was EUR 92.4 per 100 kg.
Data sources and availability
Livestock and meat statistics
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.
Agricultural price statistics
EU agricultural price statistics are based on voluntary agreements between Eurostat and the Member States.
The National Statistical Institutes or Ministries of Agriculture are responsible for collecting absolute prices and calculating corresponding average prices for their country, as well as for calculating price indices and periodically updating the weights.
Price indices are reported quarterly and annually. Absolute prices are reported annually. The agricultural prices expressed in national currency are converted to euro by Eurostat, using the fixed exchange rates or financial market exchange rates, in order to allow comparisons between the Member States. Eurostat is responsible for calculating indices for the EU.
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 former policy need for production statistics for market monitoring by the European commission has evolved, with the Single Common Organisation of the Market, towards market transparency for all actors and EU citizens, contributing to feedback on the market signals, for meat as for the other agricultural products.
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 number 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.
Further Eurostat information
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2016 edition (Statistical book)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2015 edition (Statistical book)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2014 edition (Statistical book)
- Agriculture (t_agri), see:
- Agricultural production (t_apro)
- Livestock and meat (t_apro_mt)
- Agricultural prices and price indices (t_apri)
- Producer price indices, animals and animal products (tag00050)
- Agriculture (agri), see:
- 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)
Methodology / Metadata
- Livestock and meat (ESMS metadata file — apro_mt_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Regulation (EC) No 617/2008 of 27 June 2008 laying down detailed rules for implementing Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards marketing standards for eggs for hatching and farmyard poultry chicks
- Regulation (EC) No 1165/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 concerning livestock and meat statistics
- 15 Member States provided data on selling prices of pigs (EUR per 100 kg live weight).
- 18 Member States provided data on selling prices of sheep (EUR per 100 kg live weight).
- Short Term Outlook for EU arable crops, dairy and meat markets: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/sites/agriculture/files/markets-and-prices/short-term-outlook/pdf/2016-3_en.pdf.
- 19 Member States provided data on selling prices of chicken (EUR per 100 kg live weight).