Red meat boosts Scottish economy by £2.1bn

Scotland’s red meat industry contributed a whopping £2.1bn to the Scottish economy last year.

The impressive figures have come from the a Scottish Red Meat Industry profile, published yesterday by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). It was also revealed that around 27,000 jobs were directly provided through the rearing of beef cattle, sheep and pigs, as well as the processing of primaries in 2012.

However, it is not all positives and the report also highlighted the difficulties faced by the industry, including a shrinking suckler cattle herd that has “decreased in size for a second year during 2012”, said head of economics services at QMS Stuart Ashworth.  

Ashworth said the suckler herd was also 1% smaller than in 2011 at 517,000 head, “taking the herd size contraction since decoupling to 9%”. He explained that an increase in cow slaughterings has also contributed to the smaller herd size.

“However, following more than a decade of decline, the breeding ewe flock edged higher by 0.6%, taking numbers back above 2.8 million head,” Ashworth highlighted. Additionally, a further restructuring of the country’s pig sector resulted in the sow herd contracting sharply for the second year in a row. Sow numbers have now declined by 13% to 28,100 head.

Ashworth added: “For a second year, beef production at a UK level slowed as the year progressed and producer prices for cattle moved sharply higher.

“Farmgate lamb prices weakened significantly later in the year, despite the negative impact of wet weather on domestic production, as import volumes jumped. Pig prices finished 2012 on a strong footing, despite higher UK production.”


Cattle slaughtering in Scottish abattoirs has fallen by 8% to 480,000, with total beef production down by 7.5%. Despite this, abattoir revenues from beef sales rose by 4%, as it became a more expensive commodity. Sheep kill and the total volume of sheepmeat produced also fell, dropping by 10% in 2012. However sales in abattoirs grew by 2.5% due to strong prices early in the year. Meanwhile, the closure of Scotland’s largest pig slaughtering facility in October last year resulted in pig kill falling by 7.5%.

Looking at the effect on retail prices, Ashworth said beef averaged nearly 11% higher than the previous year and explained that pork was almost 7% more expensive. He explained that lamb prices averaged less than 2% higher, which made it a more competitively priced protein.

Ashworth said: “Higher retail prices for beef and pork stymied purchased volumes, while tight global sheepmeat supplies resulted in limited availability for much of the year.”