Agricultural production - livestock and meat
Data extracted in November 2018.
Planned article update: February 2020.
Livestock population, EU-28, 2010-2017
This article is part of a set that is taken from Eurostat’s publication Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics - 2018 edition. It presents information on livestock and meat production in the European Union (EU).
Majority of livestock populations concentrated in just a few countries
The EU has a substantial population of livestock: there were 88 million bovine animals, 150 million pigs, and 100 million sheep and goats in 2017 (see Table 1).
However, the majority of livestock were held in just a few large Member States. One fifth (21.0 %) of the bovine population was found in France, with a further one quarter in the combined populations of Germany (13.9 %) and the United Kingdom (11.1 %). One fifth (20.0 %) of pigs were found in Spain, with only a slightly smaller share in Germany (18.4 %), a further one third being found fairly equally between France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland. The United Kingdom and Spain accounted for a large proportion (about 45 %) of the EU's sheep, Greece and Spain for the majority of goats.
There have been divergent developments in livestock populations
The pig population is relatively cyclical. The population in 2017 was back up to that of 2011 after fluctuating at lower levels in the intervening years (see Figure 1).
Between 2011 and 2015, the EU population of bovine animals grew steadily, then stabilised, and fell in 2017. The population of sheep fell relatively steadily between 2010 and 2013, before stabilising and rebounding slightly. However, the population shrank again in 2017.
After some recovery from a relative low in 2012, the goat population declined in 2017 (-3.1 %).
Veal and beef
Beef is the meat from the slaughter of bovine animals of at least one year old. Certain cattle breeds are reared specifically for their beef, although beef can also come from dairy cattle.
Veal is considered in this article as the meat from bovine animals younger than one year (usually male calves and young cattle). Male calves from dairy cows are of no use for producing milk, and their growth potential for producing beef meat is not optimal.
Production of bovine meat in 2017 remained unchanged from that in 2016, but real-terms price of cattle increased
The EU produced 7.8 million tonnes of bovine meat (beef and veal) in 2017, the same quantity as in 2016. This should be seen in the context of the end of milk quotas on 31 March 2015, as it led directly to increased cow slaughter, as some of the smallest farms abandoned dairy production. Before then, there had been a downward trend in bovine meat production through to 2013.
Almost one half of all the EU's beef production came from three Member States (see Figure 3); these were France (18.4 %), Germany (15.8 %) and the United Kingdom (13.2 %).
Two-thirds of veal meat was produced in three Member States; these were Spain (25.1 %), the Netherlands (23.0 %) and France (19.3 %).
The real-terms price for cattle was +2.2 % higher in 2017 than 2016 on average for the EU as a whole. Although this was still lower than the highs of 2012 and 2013, it was about 10 % higher than the average price in 2010 (see Figure 4).
Pig meat production in 2017 was a little lower than the relative peak in 2016, but the real-terms price of pigs jumped higher
The EU produced 23.4 million tonnes of pig meat in 2017, down -0.9 % on the relative peak level in 2016. This was, however, still at least 1.0 million tonnes more than in the years 2012 to 2013.
About one quarter (23.3 %, or 5.5 million tonnes) of the EU’s pig meat came from Germany alone in 2017, with Spain providing a little less than one fifth (18.4 % or 4.3 million tonnes) of the total.
There was a further rebound (+8.3 %) in the real-terms price of pigs in 2017 from the relative low in 2015.
Sheep and goat meat
Moderate increase in sheep and goat meat production, but a moderate decline in real terms price
The EU produced 0.8 million tonnes of sheep and goat meat in 2017, the vast majority (92.5 %) of this being sheep meat. This represented a +1.7 % increase on the 2016 production level, although over the medium term it has been relatively stable.
The vast majority of the EU's sheep and goat meat production in 2017 came from five Member States; these were the United Kingdom (39.0 % of the EU total), Spain (16.4 %), France (11.3 %), Greece (9.3 %) and Ireland (8.7 %).
The real-terms price of sheep and goats in 2017 was -1.4 % lower than in 2016, continuing the downward trend noted since 2011.
Poultry production in EU at new high in 2017. Average real terms price for chickens also higher than in 2016
The EU produced about 15.0 million tonnes of poultry meat in 2017, a new high. This represented a cumulative rise in production since 2010 of about 25 % or 3.0 million tonnes.
In 2017, two-thirds of the EU production of poultry was in six Member States; these were Poland (15.6 %), the United Kingdom (12.1 %), France (11.0 %), Spain (10.2 %), Germany (10.1 %) and Italy (8.8 %).
As poultry production levels increased sharply in the period between 2013 and 2016 when feed prices were also low, so the real-terms price for chickens decreased. However, this downward price pressure eased in 2017, with a small increase (+1.0 % in real terms).
Source data for tables and graphs
Livestock and meat statistics
Livestock and meat statistics are collected by EU Member States under Regulation (EC) No 1165/2008, 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 (APS) 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 into 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 for monitoring the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
One of the objectives of the first CAP was to secure the availability of food supplies for the people of the then European Economic Community. Today’s CAP has evolved, requiring more agricultural market transparency for all actors and EU citizens. Statistics for livestock and meat, as with other agricultural products, help provide feedback on market signals.
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 (for dairy or meat production) as well as animal stocks being grown and fattened, contribute to preparing measures that ensure a more stable—or at least more secure—market, which aims to benefit both EU 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 this food supply.
- 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)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2018 edition (Statistical book)
- Animal production (ESMS metadata file — apro_anip_esms)
- 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