Meat and dairy markets will be influenced by sustainability, societal and health concerns over the coming decade, both in terms of production types and consumption patterns. These are just a few of the projections from the European Union agricultural outlook for 2021-31 report published on 9 December 2021 by the European Commission.
Milk and dairy products
Over the outlook period, EU milk production will provide sustainable solutions to dairy farmers, climate and society. For instance, farmers can benefit from applying sustainable feeding strategies and better herd management, leading to efficiently managed costs and operations. Furthermore, having to comply with higher environmental standards, cows’ replacement rates could decline while pasture-based production systems will grow, providing benefits also for biodiversity and soil health.
EU milk production growth is projected to slow down to 0.5% per year, reaching around 162 million tonnes by 2031. Alternatives to conventional systems, such as organic production, will further grow lowering annual yield growth and prevent even stronger reduction of the EU dairy herd.
Organic milk production is expected to grow, providing economic values with higher prices, environmental benefits as well as better animal welfare. EU organic milk representing 3.5% of EU milk in 2019, could reach 8% in 2031.
Despite the reduced EU growth, the EU is expected to remain the largest dairy trade supplier in 2031, representing 30% of global dairy trade. Growth of the EU’s two biggest competitors will also be moderate, with New Zealand at 0.2% per year and the US at 1%. Developing countries will grow the most during that period.
During the coming decade, value creation will remain a growth factor. Dairy products, especially cheese, could particularly benefit from this, given an already active participation in existing quality schemes. In addition, cheese is expected to benefit most from the additional EU milk produced by 2031, plus 0.7% per year, while generating the highest value.
EU fresh dairy products could benefit from growing exports, which are expected to reach 1.8 million tonnes in 2031. EU consumption will continue its decline at a slower rate, at -0.2% compared to -0.5% in 2021, thanks to an increased interest in differentiated products (e.g. organic). As a result, EU production could remain stable, with a relatively high average of 2019-2021 at 38.5 million tonnes.
Sustainability, with its environmental, economic and societal objectives, is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in EU meat markets, both for producers and consumers. Modernisation, innovative technologies and changes in farming practices will lead to more efficient and more environmentally-friendly meat production. Still, the investments required to do so remain a challenge. Furthermore, concerns over the environment and climate change will result in consumers paying further attention to the production process and products’ origin. Consumers habits will also be driven by health considerations as well as convenience. Overall, EU meat per capita consumption is expected to drop from 69.8kg in 2018 to 67kg by 2031.
With a total cow herd set to decrease by 7% (down 2.1 million heads), EU gross beef production is expected to fall by 0.6 million tonnes (-8%) over the outlook period. In terms of EU consumption, it will continue its downward trend between 2021 and 2031 and drop from 10.6 kg to 9.7 kg per capita.
Uncertainties, especially those related to the African Swine Fever, remain for the pigmeat sector. China should have fully recovered by 2026, having a massive impact on EU pigmeat exports. In addition, shifts in EU consumer preferences in terms of health, environment and societal concerns should negatively impact EU pigmeat consumption, projected to decrease by 0.5% per year, from 32.5 kg in 2021 to 31 kg per capita in 2031. EU production is also expected to decline by 0.8% per year over the outlook period, to reach 21.5 million tonnes in 2031.
For the poultry sector, EU consumption growth could slow down, from 2% per year in 2011-2021 to 0.6% in 2021-2031, resulting in an increase from 23.5 kg per capita in 2021 to 24.8kg in 2031. This should be driven by a healthier image of poultry compared to other meats and greater convenience in its preparation and the absence of religious constraints in its consumption. EU production is expected to continue to increase by 0.4% per year, reaching 14 million tonnes in 2031.
EU sheep meat production is expected to increase slightly by 0.3% per year in 2021-2031, to 660 000 tonnes in 2031, supported by coupled income support, small world supply and improving producer prices. EU per capita consumption of sheep meat is expected to grow slightly by 2031 and reach 1.4 kg per capita thanks to the diversification of the meat diet and changing consumption patterns.
The EU agricultural outlook report for 2021-31 contains all relevant market data, accompanied by an explanation of assumptions, and a description of the macroeconomic environment. The projections and scenarios described in the report will be discussed at the annual EU agricultural conference, taking place online on 9-10 December 2021.
- Publication date
- 9 December 2021
- Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development