The meat production sector within the European Union is witnessing a decline: With the halt in imports, is there a possibility of facing a meat shortage?

The meat production sector within the European Union is witnessing a decline: With the halt in imports, is there a possibility of facing a meat shortage?
The meat production

Recent statistical insights into the scale of meat production across the European Union (EU) prompt a moment of reflection and might even elicit a sense of satisfaction among proponents of environmental ideologies. According to reports issued by slaughterhouses for the last year, there has been a noted decrease in production figures compared to prior years, a trend that has been ongoing for multiple years now.

The most significant reduction was observed in the pork industry. In the past year, the production of beef within the Community countries decreased by 4%, and pork production saw a reduction of nearly 7%. Preliminary data from the EU's statistical service, Eurostat, indicate that in 2023, member state slaughterhouses, which are obliged to report their operational figures, processed a total of 219.6 million pigs. The degree of decline varied across Community countries; however, the statistics clearly demonstrate that not a single country saw an increase in pork production. The most notable decrease was in Denmark's pork sector, which shrank by a fifth (to 1.29 million tons). Spain, which leads the Community in pork production, recorded a decline for the second consecutive year, despite previously experiencing growth in operational volume. Compared to 2022, pork production decreased by 4.2% (to 4.85 million tons).
Germany, another major player, also faced losses. Its meat sector contracted by 4%. Preliminary data released by the Federal Statistical Office, Destatis, in February of this year shows that last year, commercial slaughterhouses produced 6.8 million tons of meat, which is 280,200 tons less than the previous year. This marks the seventh consecutive year of decline in the country's meat production, according to Destatis. Following the record high in meat production in 2016 (8.25 million tons), there was a slight slowdown in production the following year, and in 2022, there was an 8.1% reduction in volumes compared to 2021. This negative trend continued into 2023, with slaughterhouses processing a total of 47.9 million pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. Over the last year, 43.8 million pigs were slaughtered. Compared to the previous year, this number decreased by 7% or 3.3 million animals. The number of domestic pigs slaughtered decreased by 7.7% (to nearly 42.3 million). However, the number of slaughtered imported pigs in German farms increased by 19.5% (to 1.5 million). In tonnage terms, slaughterhouses produced about 4.2 million tons of pork, which is 6.8% (or 306,500 tons) less than in 2022. Compared to the record year of 2016, last year saw approximately 1.4 million tons or 25.1% less pork produced. According to experts from the German statistical office, one of the reasons for the decline in pork production is the reduction in the pig population within the country.
Only the Netherlands saw an increase in beef production figures. According to Eurostat, the number of cattle in Community slaughterhouses last year decreased to 21.89 million, down by 3.4% compared to 2022. Experts note that for the first time in several decades, cattle sales have dropped below the 22 million mark. Beef production saw an even greater reduction – by 4.0% (to 6.38 million tons). Preliminary data suggest that Italy contributed significantly to this decline, with production decreasing by 17% (to 620,000 tons). In France, the EU's leading beef producer, beef production decreased by 4.4% compared to 2022 (to 1.30 million tons), and in Spain by 5% (to 695,000 tons). The statistics were slightly improved by Germany and the Netherlands. In the latter country, indicators increased by 3.3% (to 435,500 tons). According to Destatis, although the number of cattle slaughtered for commercial purposes in Germany in 2023 decreased by 0.3% (to 3 million) compared to 2022, an increase in average slaughter weights across all cattle categories led to a 0.6% increase in slaughter volumes (to 992,900 tons of beef).