Pig farming statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from November 2009. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article provides a general overview of statistics on pig farming in the European Union (EU). Pigmeat is produced throughout the EU on several types of farms with considerable variations from one Member State to another. Three quarters of pigs are reared by just 1.5 % of the largest fatteners. Small pig producers are mostly found in the new Member States and are one of the reasons for their smaller herd size. The different specialised tasks of pig rearing are distributed across farms and, in the main production basins, even across regions.

Map 1: Number of sows by region (2008)
Figure 1: Distribution of numbers of other pigs by herd size (FSS 07)
Table 1: Distribution of pigs and farms by type of pig rearing (FSS 2007) - Four types based on the numbers of sows and of other pigs
Figure 2: Distribution of other pigs by type of pig farm (FSS 2007)
Figure 3: Distribution of the sows by herd size in EU-15 and 12 new Member States (FSS 2007)
Figure 4: Pig population (EU-27) - Livestock population, December survey, 2008
Map 2: Net exchanges of young pigs - Scheme of the intra-EU exchanges (2008) - Arrow width is proportional to the volume of intra-EU foreign trade surplus (in tons). The 10 main surpluses on pigs weighing less than 50 kg account for 89% of the overall balances
Map 3: Net exchanges of pigs for slaughtering - Scheme of the intra-EU exchanges (2008) - Arrow width is proportional to the volume of intra-EU foreign trade surplus (in tons). The 10 main surpluses on pigs with a live weighing at least 50 kg account for 88% of the overall balances
Figure 5: Change in the number of sows and piglets - In EU-15 and EU-27, December surveys
Figure 6: Change in the numbers of sows (FSS 2005 to 2007 - BE, BG, DK, DE, EE, EL, IT, CY, LV, LU, NL, AT, PT, FI and SE
Figure 7: Change in the numbers of sows (FSS 2005 to 2007) CZ, IE, ES, FR, HU, MT, SI, SK and UK
Figure 8: Change in the numbers of sows (FSS 2005 to 2007) LT, PL and RO
Figure 9: Numerical productivity (Gross Indigenous Production - GIP) per sow (2008)
Table 2: Statistics on the pig population, slaughtering and pigmeat production
Figure 10: Gross indigenous production (GIP) of pigmeat, quarterly data - Meat production forecast
Figure 11: Price index of pigmeat, cereals, energy and compound feedstuff for pigs - base 2000=100

Main statistical findings

Regional data on livestock are more informative than national figures as a means of displaying the zones of pig production (Map 1). The major production basin extends from Denmark to Vlaams Gewest (Belgium) and accounts for 30 % of EU sows. However, there are other important regions, such as Cataluña, Murcia (Spain), Lombardia (Italy), Bretagne (France) and some areas of central Poland and Northern Croatia.

Structure of the pig farms

The distribution of national herds by size is taken from the Farm structure survey. The pigs arerecorded in three categories, i.e. piglets, breeding sows and other pigs. The sows reflect the permanent pigherd and the other pigs are the pigs fattened before slaughtering (see details on pig farming).

Herd size: other pigs

The distribution of the pig population by size of the pig herds (in numbers of other pigs) shows that 1.5 % of pig farms have at least 400 other pigs and manage 75.7 % of these (Graph 1) and 49.1 % of the sows. These figures conceal national differences: only 21.6 % of other pigs in Poland are kept in such farms as compared to the figure of 90 % or more in nine Member States (Ireland, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom and Czech Republic). On the other hand, the animals kept in small units of less than 10 other pigs are important in Romania (66.2 %), Bulgaria (34.8%) and Lithuania (31.9 %). At the EU level, although these small units manage 5.3 % of other pigs, they account for 85.8 % of the pig farms.

Herd size: breeding sows

Two types of pig farm may be distinguished based on the number of breeding sows: the fatteners and the breeder-fatteners. Almost half of the other pigs (47.3 %) are kept by fatteners, i.e. on farms without sows. However, this particular figure hides a range of different situations: 77.2 % of the other pigs are reared by fatteners with more than 400 animals, whereas 95.7 % of the fatteners have fewer than 10 pigs, mainly for own consumption. More than half of these numerous small farms (57.2 %) are in Romania.

Breeding sows, other pigs and herd size

Besides the numerous small fatteners, the other pigs are shared between three further significant types of farm. Of the largest farms with at least 400 other pigs, the pure fatteners and the large breeder-fatteners with at least 100 sows manage similar numbers of other pigs and the large breeder-fatteners feed almost half of the sow herd. A third group accounts for a quarter of the pig farms and manages one fifth of the other pigs and the remaining half of breeding sows.

The breakdown of other pigs among the four types of pig farm (Table 1) is shown by country in Graph 2.

  • The small fatteners (no sows and fewer than 10 other pigs) represent a significant share of pig production and at least 10 % of other pigs in seven of the new Member States (Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia). The importance of own consumption in pig production limits the sensitivity of this type of production to market conditions.
  • The large fatteners (no sows and at least 400 other pigs) account for more than one third of other pigs in ten countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom). They reflect a production organised between specialised breeders (which nevertheless have other pigs) and fatteners. These 10 countries represent two thirds of the other pigs and three quarters of the EU pigmeat production. In France and Estonia the distribution is intermediate between that typical of large fatteners or large breeders.
  • The large breeders (at least 400 pigs and 100 sows) manage more than two thirds of the other pigs in five countries (Czech Republic, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal), where production is concentrated in a less organised production sector.
  • The other pig farms manage more than two thirds of other pigs in Malta, Austria and Poland, which reflects a certain level of concentration, but one which is limited by the farm size. Slovenia, with almost half of the other pigs in such farms, also belongs to this group of countries.

Components of the pig herd

Geographic distribution

Pig production is concentrated in a few countries, with Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Poland having more than two thirds of the breeding pigs between them (December 2008 survey). At regional level (NUTS 1), half of the breeding pigs are concentrated in eleven regions, all of which are located in these six countries. Naturally, the size of the countries and regions plays a role in this ranking.

In relative terms, the average share of pig production in agricultural output is highest in Denmark (29 %), followed by Belgium (20 %), Poland (15%), Malta, Cyprus (both 14 %) and Germany (13 %).

Structural differences between pig farms in EU-15 and new Member States

Another striking feature (Graph 3) is the high proportion of sows in small herds in the 12 newest EU Member States. More than 98 % of the sows are in farms with at least 10 sows in EU-15 as against 58 % in the new Member States. According to FSS 2007, the 12 new Member States accounted for 22 % of the breeding sows overall, but 91 % of these sows were in small herds of one or two sows and 6 % were in herds of 100 to 199 sows.

Components of the pig herd – types of animal

The livestock survey provides more detailed figures about the livestock population. The number of sows or piglets determines the number of fattening pigs, which in turn determines the number of pigs to be slaughtered several months later.

The number of boars per sow (Table 2) reflects the frequency of artificial insemination, and also the importance of the herds in natural service. This shows how rapid genetic progress can be. One boar covers on average more than 50 sows in Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, but fewer than 10 in Greece and Croatia.

The percentage of new sows (gilts) reflects the pressure to renew the breeding animals and is another determinant of genetic progress.

The pig population can be divided into two groups i.e. breeding pigs and meat pigs (Graph 4). The former provide the production factors for the latter. The breeding pigs are renewed by keeping young pigs from the previous year and slaughtering (culling) old pigs. The meat pigs can be sold at different stages as pigs to be fattened or as fattened pigs to be slaughtered.

Components of the pig herd – trade of live animals

The intra-EU exchanges (COMEXT) of pigs less than 50 kg amounted to around 200 000 tonnes in 2008. Assuming an average weight of 25 kg, this is equivalent to 8 million young pigs (Map 2). This annual production, which represents a flow over year, cannot be compared directly with the population of young pigs at any given moment. Germany is the main importer of young pigs, with 77 % of EU imports, and Denmark is the main exporter with 74 % of EU exports. In addition, Germany is the main importer of breeding animals (46 %) and Denmark is the main exporter (23 %). Germany is also the main importer of non-breeder pigs weighing at least 50 kg, i.e. mostly for slaughtering (Map 3).

It can be seen from these maps that pig production is specialised even across borders, with breeders such as Denmark, fatteners such as Spain and mixed producers such as the Netherlands. Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands form a single pig production area.

Changes and trends

Changes in the pig population

The total number of sows represents the production capacity. Between 2006 and 2008, the number of sows fell by 10 %. In the 12 New Member States the reduction was steeper (-27 %) than in the 15 older Member States (-6%), with certain exceptions in each group. The decline was less marked in Estonia and Latvia in the first group and in Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal in the second group. In Greece the number of sows actually increased.

Such extreme changes are a combination of several phenomena, which have a varying impact depending on the structure of pig production. The general decrease concerns all countries, but the underlying phenomenon is one of concentration, i.e. an increase in the size of the largest herds together with the disappearance of the smallest. The trend is towards a decrease in the this change in the structure of pig production in the 12 new Member States can be expected to continue.

Graph 8 shows that the decrease in the number of sows is balanced by a gain in productivity. The number of piglets in EU-15 is even showing a slight increase.

The most recent data come from the livestock survey carried out in May/June 2009. These figures are provided by countries with at least 3 000 000 pigs, and the Member States concerned account for 85 % of the EU pig population (according to the December survey). They show a yearly trend of -0.85 % for sows, -0.56 % for fattening pigs and -0.39 % for piglets, i.e. -0.60 % for all pigs. This rate of change is less marked than that observed in previous years (-3.79 %) and indicates a lower rate of decrease. This would be comparable to the previous 5-year trend.

Changes in farm structure

The structural data allow us to distinguish three types of national trend, depending on the changes in the number of sows from large farms with at least 200 sows and of those from small farms with fewer than 10 sows.

  • Concentration (Graph 6). In 15 Member States, large farms are accounting for more and more sows to the detriment of the smallest farms. The number of sows on small farms is barely falling, if at all. These Member States account for more than half (52 %) of the EU sow herd according to the December 2008 livestock survey.
  • Abandonment (Graph 7). The decrease affects pig farms of all sizes, including large farms in nine Member States. These account for more than one third (36%) of the sows surveyed in December 2008.
  • Restructuring (Graph 8). In three Member States, the number of sows from small herds fell sharply and the number in the medium and large herds rose correspondingly. This can be interpreted as a re-organisation of production. These herds accounted for one out of eight EU sows (12.4%) according to the livestock survey (December 2008).

A change is discernible in all countries, but it can be regarded as a trend in only some of them. The third type could also be seen as a combination of the other two.

Changes in the types of pig farm

The number of small breeders follows the trend in the number of small farms, i.e. a general decrease, which is especially marked where there are proportionally more small farms. The number of pigs is falling at a similar rate, as there is a strong link between these two numbers.

The number of large fatteners is increasing apart from in a few countries. There, although the number of large farms is stable, their average size is continuing to increase. On average, between the 2003 and 2007 surveys in the 12 newest Member States, the number of pigs for the large fatteners doubled, with more extreme figures being seen at national level. At EU level, the increase was 16.4 %.

Although the number of large breeders has increased in only a few countries, the average number of sows per farm increased in every country, except Bulgaria, Austria and Slovenia. The average number of other pigs increased everywhere except in Luxembourg, Slovenia and Austria.

In all but a few countries, the number of other pig farms decreased, as did the number of sows and other pigs. Since the 2000 survey, the number of sows in these farms fell steadily by 2.5 % per year in EU-15.

Production of pigmeat

Pigmeat is produced from the slaughtering of live pigs produced in the country (gross indigenous production), i.e. excluding the pigs exported live, but including those imported live. Thus the correspondence between fattening and slaughtering is not exact (Graph 9).

Seasonal variations in production are due to lower sow fertility in summer. Pigmeat production shows an economic cycle (which is less than two and half years), although its impact on farmer decision is less than that of major economic changes or animal crises.

In 2008 pigmeat production in the EU reached 259.6 million head (Table 2), of which more than half (54.4 %) came from four countries (Germany, Denmark, Spain and France). The EU foreign balance showed a surplus of 1.8 million tonnes (pigmeat and processed pigmeat), i.e. 7 % of the slaughtering, but extra-EU trade represented only 14 % of the national foreign trade (in volume terms). Four countries (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain) contributed 62 % to the total of extra-EU exports.

Finally, a statistical artefact also plays a role: the national statistics could cover domestic slaughtering, which has now been excluded for comparability purposes. Estimates have been used to minimise breaks in the series. Although the effect is concentrated in certain countries, it excludes about 7 % of pigmeat production in the EU.

Following the fall in the number of breeding pigs, production is also decreasing, and the GIP is expected to be around 250 million head in total for the four quarters of 2009 (Graph 10).

Market prices

The past few years have been difficult for pig producers in terms of profitability mainly owing to the high price of cereals and, to a lesser extent, of energy (Graph 11). In parallel, the price of pigs increased only slightly and the terms of trade (output-input) remained negative. The situation at the beginning of 2009 warrants more optimism, but cannot compensate for these difficult years.

Data sources and availability

For the data in this article, five different sources were used:

  • The Farm structure survey, a robust survey with a wide scope, no longer collects, from 2009 onwards, the structure of livestock rearing. Thus, the data are drawn from the FSS. Although this allows a wider scope (including land use, livestock, labour force, etc.) and a longer reference period, the results are less informative about the pig population than the data previously collected through the Livestock survey. Also the categories of pigs surveyed are limited to three: piglets with a live weight of less than 20 kg, breeding sows (weighing 50 kg and over) and other pigs. This latter category covers fattening pigs and also boars, cull sows, gilts, and various other pigs of at least 20 kg. Most of these other pigs are fattening pigs. Four times per decade the farm structure survey records data about the farm structure which can be used for describing the structure of animal herds.
  • The Livestock survey, a more frequent and specialised survey than the FSS, provides information about the livestock population at national and regional level; the relevant data are intended to be more precise than the FSS figures for the three categories above and the nomenclature of livestock contains more animal categories.
  • Slaughtering and meat production statistics (forecast and updated figures) are collected on a monthly basis; they refer to the activity of slaughterhouses. From the slaughtering and the balance of external trade for live animals, the gross indigenous production can be estimated, as can the national production of pigs for slaughtering. The GIP is forecast by the Member States, which provide Eurostat with these figures once or twice a year.
  • Agricultural price statistics (indices and absolute prices) are collected on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement following the methodological descriptions from the Handbook for EU agricultural price statistics. The main use for absolute agricultural prices is to compare the price level between Member States and to study sales channels. On the other side, agricultural price indices are used above all in connection with the analysis of price developments and the effect on agricultural income.
  • External trade statistics (exhaustive database) record the monthly trade of the Member States in terms of imports and exports between Member States or with the third countries provided, as reported by the traders on the basis of Customs (extra-EU) and Intrastat (intra-EU) declarations.


European Commission Rural development policy aims to improve competitiveness in agriculture and forestry, improve the environment and countryside, improve the quality of life in rural areas and encourage the diversification of rural economies.

As agriculture has modernised and the importance of industry and services within the economy has increased, so agriculture has become much less important as a source of jobs. Consequently, increasing emphasis is placed on the role farmers can play in rural development, including forestry, biodiversity, the diversification of the rural economy to create alternative jobs and environmental protection in rural areas.

The FSS continues to adapt to provide timely and relevant data to help analyse and follow these developments.

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Structure of agricultural holdings (t_ef)


Structure of agricultural holdings (ef)
Agricultural products (apro)
Animal production (apro_mt)
Meat production (apro_mt_p)
Livestock (apro_mt_ls)
Agricultural prices and price indices (apri)
Price indices of agricultural products (apri_pi)

Dedicated section

Ad-hoc tables: Farm Structure Survey

Methodology / Metadata

See also