Dungannon-headquartered beef and lamb processor, Dunbia, which operates across 13 sites in the UK, reported operating profits of £12.79m in 2022, up from £10.69m in 2021, its latest accounts show.

Increased output prices in 2022 resulted in a 7.5% increase in turnover, which stood at £1.37bn, leaving operating profit margin at a relatively thin 0.93%, just ahead of the 0.84% in the previous year.

While turnover grew in 2022, so did the direct cost of these sales, which increased 6.7%. Distribution costs and administrative expenses were up 15.6% and 14% respectively.

In total, the company employed an average of 4,270 people during 2022, down slightly on the 4,352 from 2021. Despite that, staff costs went up 9%, to total over £134m.

Dunbia is a division of Waterford-based Dawn Meats. Owned by the Browne and Queally families, the company is one of the largest meat processors in Britain and Ireland.

The Dunbia results do give an insight into the margins in UK beef and sheep processing, however, accounts for other companies owned by the Browne and Queally families are not publicly available. The immediate parent of Dunbia UK is Dunbia Holdings Isle of Man (IOM) Unlimited and the ultimate controlling party is QDB holdings IOM Unlimited.

With both ABP Food Group and WD Meats operating as private unlimited companies that don’t publish accounts, it just leaves Foyle Food Group as the other major local beef processor making financial results publicly available. In 2022, Foyle reported operating profits of £12.9m on turnover of £482m, leaving profit margin at a reasonably healthy 2.7%.

Margins down at NI meat businesses

Both Co Armagh-based C&J Meats and Co Antrim-based Doherty & Gray saw profits down in their last financial year.

Despite turnover being up 17% to total just over £69m in the 12 months to 30 November 2022, operating profit at C&J Meats fell from £921,818 to £727,025, leaving an operating profit margin of 1.05%.

In business just over 20 years, C&J Meats is owned by John McCann and Colm Pyers. It originally concentrated on secondary beef processing, but now also slaughters cattle at DMP Foods in Crumlin, alongside the Doherty brothers, the owners of Doherty & Gray Ltd.

In its accounts for the 12-months to 31 March 2023, Doherty & Gray reported a 9% increase in turnover to £45.66m. However, operating profit dropped from £612,516 to just £65,321, leaving a loss after tax of £41,145.

In the review of its last financial year, the directors noted that raw material costs and some operating costs had reached “unprecedented levels”, but have since returned to “more normal trading levels”.

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