Despite a further increase in production, last year the United Kingdom was only 73% self-sufficient for poultry meat. That is 4% less than in the previous year and the lowest level for the last 5 years. The import comes increasingly from the Netherlands, by far the biggest foreign supplier to the British market.
UK-production of poultry meat last year amounted to 1.69 million tonnes (MT), some 44,000 tonnes more than in 2014 and 132,000 tonnes more than 5 years ago, according to the Poultry Yearbook published by the research department of the levy board AHDB. Of this, 1.42 MT was chicken meat for which 975 million fowls were slaughtered. The figures show that British production of chicken has increased by some 25% since the beginning of the century.
As a result, the UK is now is the 2nd largest producer of poultry meat in the European Union, after Poland but before Germany and Spain. The country hosts some of the larger poultry meat companies in Europe, including Moy Park which is part of the Brazilian meat giant JBS, 2 Sisters Food Group with production sites in the UK, the Netherlands and Poland, Faccenda and the largest turkey producer in Europe Bernard Matthews.
Due to lower prices, in 2015 the total value of all poultry meat produced in the UK declined by some 1% while prices of table chickens have fallen by over 5%, according to a recent report by the department for rural affairs Defra. The department also noticed that the total poultry flock decreased by 1.2% to 168 million birds at the end of last year. This decrease was largely due to the 3.0% fall in broiler numbers to 107 million birds, which account for almost two thirds of the total.
UK investment in broiler welfare studies
On the other hand, total consumption of poultry meat in the UK, including turkey and to a much lesser extent duck and geese, grew from 2.07 MT in 2011 to 2.13 MT in 2014 before jumping to 2.306 MT last year, thus creating an ever larger gap between demand and supply. As a result, the UK had to import 939,000 tonnes of poultry meat, which was almost 8% more than in 2014. British exports of poultry meat further declined to just 323,000 tonnes.
The largest portion of these imports is fresh or frozen chicken and other poultry meat, of which the UK last year had to buy 438,000 tonnes in other countries. The Netherlands supplied 190,500 tonnes or 43% of total imports in this category. Last year, Dutch exports of this meat to the UK was 7% higher than in the 2 previous years. Other major suppliers are Poland which sent 65,500 tonnes to the British market, followed by Ireland, Germany and Belgium. However, imports of processed poultry products mostly come from much further away, with Thailand supplying 127,200 tonnes and Brasil 42,200 tonnes.