Despite the cost of living crisis, UK meat consumption in the first quarter of this year was higher than a year earlier.

According to Defra figures, total consumption of all meats, measured as supplies reaching the market, rose by 14,400 tonnes during the January-March period, compared with the first quarter of 2022.

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This total comprises beef, sheepmeat, pigmeat, and poultrymeat combined, and marked a rise of 1.1% on the year before.

Overall consumption for the quarter came to 1.3m tonnes, and takes account of home production adjusted for imports and exports.

Even more surprisingly, under the prevailing economics, red meats accounted for the upturn, rather than cheaper poultrymeat.

Poultrymeat consumption

In fact, poultrymeat consumption (all kinds) was down marginally by 1,300 tonnes to 568,000 tonnes for the quarter.

Pigmeat was down 11,700 tonnes compared with the year before; while beef rose by 15,800 tonnes and sheepmeat by 11,600 tonnes.

This left poultrymeat with a 43.9% share of the UK market, encompassing all outlets such as retail, foodservice and food manufacturing.

Pigmeat held 28.5%, beef 21%, and sheepmeat 6.6%.

Market share

Compared with 10 years ago, in 2013, market shares are little changed.

Poultrymeat has increased its first-quarter share by 2.5 percentage points.

Other meat categories were all down: beef by 1.4 points, sheepmeat by 0.6 points and pigmeat by 0.5 percentage points.

The bigger change over the past 10 years is in total consumption, which is up by 200,000 tonnes for all meats, a rise of 18%.

This has raised consumption in absolute terms for all categories.

Poultrymeat tonnage was up by a quarter over the 10 year period. Beef was up 11%, sheepmeat 7%, and pigmeat by 16%.

Growth in the UK population is likely to be the principal factor in this increase, rather than a rise in per capita consumption.