Retail sales of lamb remained firm during the last three months, despite fears that tighter consumer spending would hit demand, EBLEX figures have shown.

Total GB retail sales for the 12 weeks to 7 September rose slightly (0.1%) from their 2007 level to 21,000t, some 8% above 2006.

While beef sales over the same period fell 7% to 59,000t, the figure was still 3.4% above 2006.

“The perceived wisdom is that the credit crunch means more expensive proteins such as lamb might suffer,” EBLEX chief executive Richard Lowe said. “However that is clearly not the case thus far, with retail lamb volume for the last three months holding steady. Lamb has experienced less retail price inflation than other proteins.”

There was also some evidence to suggest that consumers were switching from eating out and ready meals to buying beef and lamb to cook at home, he said. The retail value of all ready meals fell by around 3% to £990m in the last quarter.

“Red meat purchases tend to fluctuate depending on the weather,” Mr Lowe added. “When summers are cold and wet, as we experienced in 2007 and to a lesser extent in 2008, consumers buy more roasting joints – effectively adopting winter eating behaviour during the summer months”