UK’s red meat exports top $2.09 billion in unprecedented year

The UK’s red meat exports valued at $2.09B despite COVID-19 shocks and increases in domestic demand.


During an unprecedented and challenging year for exports the UK has shipped 660,000 tonnes of beef, pork and sheep meat around the world – down just 3,777 tonnes in 2019’s record year, with the overall value increasing marginally.


According to the latest data from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, shipments of pig meat, including offal, increased by almost 6% to 400,000 tonnes – worth $912MM compared to $849MM million in 2019.


Exports of beef and offal reduced slightly from 184,000 tonnes in 2019 to 166,000 tonnes, worth $632MM to the sector. And while sheep meat and offal shipments dropped by seven per cent to 93,600 tonnes, the value rose by nine per cent from $569MM in 2019 to $623MM.


The latest figures are a testament to the UK and its red meat exporters in overcoming the many challenges of 2020.


When you consider the difficult trading year, we have had with the run-up to Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, these full-year results are incredibly strong – with our pork exports even increasing in value by 7%.


We have also seen an increase in domestic demand for red meat, which has slightly impacted the volumes available for exporting, including to the United States for the first time in over 24 years.  We are happy to say that with all of this in mind, 2020 has delivered some encouraging and positive results for our red meat exports.


Lean Beef

Everyone understands the importance of a healthy diet and January is synonymous with renewed efforts to change our lives and ourselves for the better – New Year, New You. While a small number believe that means cutting out meat altogether, the majority understand and appreciate the important role red meat plays in a healthy balanced diet. It contains vitamins and essential nutrients that cannot be found anywhere else. Therefore, when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently recognised the role of lean beef in a healthy diet as part of its 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the feelings of positivity extended across the pond to the UK’s red meat industry.


The US represents a hugely important potential market for UK beef exports. After gaining market access just three months ago, we have already received positive feedback from those in the US who sampled our beef for the first time in more than 20 years. But what is it that consumers like? British beef is famous for its quality, which is the result of centuries of breeding, experience and care during farming and processing. Added to this is extensive science and research. Our beef is lean – meeting the recommendations of the dietary guidelines produced in the US – and has a taste and texture which is appealing and favoured by Michelin starred chefs. Most cows are reared in the lush countryside and the typical British beef cattle herd’s diet is made up largely of grass. Over the years, grass-fed beef has grown in popularity, not least because of its low overall fat levels. Research from Ernst & Young shows that 50 per cent of consumers around the world now express a preference for grass-fed beef and 64 per cent said they would pay more for it. We know that consumers have become more discerning about where their food comes from and how it is produced – both in the UK and the US. And we can say with confidence that beef produced in the UK is among the most sustainable in the world, operating to some of the highest welfare and food safety standards.


All of this makes beef from the UK an appealing choice. We know that, as the world’s biggest producer and consumer, Americans love the taste of beef. Therefore, it is our ambition to see our product on the shelves of supermarkets and on menus of restaurants in the US – complementing the US offering American consumers choice for the months and years to come.


Susana Morris, AHDB Senior Export Manager


Christmas Traditions

Every family has their own unique traditions that make Christmas time special. But what about the Christmas traditions we all know and love? For most, preparations are now underway for the festive feast, from the scrumptious roast to the hearty sides – all lovingly prepared to wow during this celebratory season. And as we dust off the recipe books and seek inspiration from the supermarket food aisles – which joint will take pride of place in the centre of the dinner table this Christmas?


If you are looking for a joint with exceptional taste, why not offer a succulent beef mini roast – perfect for smaller households and no plate waste. On the other hand, if you are entertaining a larger crowd, why not indulge in a crème de la crème recipe using a boneless rib eye roast that serves eight to ten people. Whatever recipe you choose, read our handy hints and tips advice for shopping and cooking beef.


Shopping for Beef


As a guide, beef will keep for three to five days in the refrigerator at a temperature between 32°F-39°F, but ensure that you follow any `best if used by’ dates on pre-packed meat or take advice from your local butcher.


Always look for fresh beef that is red in colour with no unpleasant or unusual smells.


Look for joints with good, even marbling (streaks of fat that run through the leaner parts of the muscle).


During the roasting process, the marbling helps to baste the joint and adds additional flavour. Any visible surface fat should be white or creamy in colour, feel firm, and should have a soft waxy texture.


Top Tips for Roasting Beef


Mastering the art of roasting beef is easy and the following principles are key:


If time allows remove your joint from the refrigerator at least one hour before roasting, as this will ensure even cooking.


Before roasting always weigh the raw joint and calculate the total cooking time based on the doneness required (rare, medium or well done)


Always season well just before roasting.


Allow the following roasting times:

    • Rare: 20 minutes per 1lb plus 20 minutes
    • Medium: 25 minutes per 1lb plus 25 minutes
    • Well done: 30 minutes per 1lb plus 30 minutes


If in doubt, invest in a meat thermometer; they are available at all good department stores and larger supermarkets. There are two types available – one you insert just before roasting your joint and the other inserted into the joint after roasting and this gives an instant internal temperature reading, depending on how you prefer your beef cooked.


For beef, the following internal temperatures apply: Rare 140°F, Medium 158°F, Well done 176°F


Adjust your oven shelves before you cook your roast.


Place the joint uncovered on a wire rack in a roasting tin and make sure that any fat covering
is on top. This allows the juices to run down and baste the joint naturally. Alternatively,
lay a combination of roughly chopped root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips or peeled and
quartered onions in the bottom of a roasting tin. The end result are flavoursome vegetables.


Cook beef joints in a preheated moderate oven at 350-375°F. For fan assisted ovens reduce the
temperature by 20°F


We hope you enjoy the flavours of British beef.  Please be sure to visit our recipe page for some wonderful recipes including Beef Mini Roast with Caraway Seeds and Garlic Crust.