Over half of all lambs across Great Britain are now meeting the target market criteria despite current cost challenges – but there remains considerable room for more production efficiencies that can really boost farm returns, the latest abattoir data indicates.

Information collected at British abattoirs indicates that almost 58 per cent of lambs processed achieved the target grades in 2023.

“Typically, abattoirs will state a base price for the day and bonuses or penalties will be applied depending on the carcase classification”, explained James Ruggeri, Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales’s (HCC) Industry Development Executive.

“It is therefore very much in the producer's interest to know the target areas within the classification grid that achieve a base price, and which grades attract a premium.”

He said HCC are offering farmers an opportunity to improve their returns when marketing finished cattle and sheep through the Livestock Selection Programme, regional training events that are free to all farmers in Wales. They provide practical abattoir-based demonstrations, and assess live animals through to assessment of carcasses.

Details of courses can be found at meatpromotion.wales/

The new abattoir statistics are featured in HCC’s June Monthly Market Bulletin.

Glesni Phillips, HCC’s Intelligence, Analysis & Business Insight Executive, and editor of Market Bulletin, said: “These statistics frame a landscape of considerable production challenges. Reports indicated fewer lambs were on the ground and adverse weather conditions continued to affect finishing times.

“Elevated farm input costs also influenced producers' decisions when purchasing feed, further impacting finishing times. This meant a higher proportion classified as leaner compared to previous years. These lambs may have been rushed forward to market in order to manage input costs and may well have achieved a better return if finishing was delayed,” she said.

The abattoir report provides insight into the distribution of finished lamb carcasses across the industry-wide EUROP classification grid, which classifies lamb and beef carcass conformation and fat content.

“Most abattoirs grade their carcasses on the EUROP payment grid, which was introduced in the 1970s so that a uniform classifying system could be used throughout Europe.

“It also meant that producers could be rewarded for supplying their animals with the carcass classification that the market demanded.”

She said that, under the system, the carcass is assessed for conformation and fat. “Conformation is determined by a visual appraisal of shape and there are five main classes: E-U-R-O-P, where E equals excellent across to P equalling poor.

“There are also five main classes of fat ranging from 1 (very lean) to 5 (excessively fat), with classes 3 and 4 being sub-divided into L (leaner) and H (fatter). The new data shows the proportion of sheep carcasses achieving the base price - that’s the R2 and R3L grades - stood at over 40 per cent, similar to the previous year's levels.”