UK poultrymeat production took a more confident approach in the first two months of this year, after showing an overall decline in 2023.

During January and February combined, total output of all kinds of poultrymeat rose by 3.3 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to the latest Defra figures, having increased by 11,200 tonnes to 351,000 tonnes.

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Broiler production was up 7,400 tonnes to 322,000 tonnes, and turkey and ducks were up by 6,200 tonnes to 20,200 tonnes.

The totals for turkey and duck meat are pooled together by Defra due to a “low survey response rate”, but turkeys tend to make up around 85% of the two .

The final component of the poultrymeat total is boiling fowl, and output of these slipped by 2,400 tonnes in Jan-Feb to 8,200 tonnes.

Output

By comparison, during 2023 as a whole, poultrymeat output showed a decline. Production was down year-on-year by 15,800 tonnes to 1.97 million tonnes, a decline of just under one per cent.

Although broiler output was up by 8,700 tonnes in 2023 to 1.79m tonnes, it was offset by sharper falls in turkeys, ducks and old hens. The combined total for these three sectors was down 24,600 tonnes to 173,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile broiler chick placings have been more cautious at the start of 2024. Day-old chick numbers dropped by another 710,000 in February compared with a year earlier, following a year-on-year fall of 350,000 chicks in January.

Jan-Feb total

This now amounts to half a per cent fewer birds than in the first two months of 2023. At 201.8 million, it is the lowest Jan-Feb total for the last five years.

In the turkey sector, February saw a marked slowdown in the rate of contraction after January’s 36% freefall.

Poult numbers in February fell just 4% year-on-year, leaving the sector 400,000 birds down overall for January and February combined, from 1.58 to 1.18m.