Farmers to lose out in red meat boom

By FWi staff

RED meat sales are set to rocket this year – but livestock producers will see a drop in returns, because much of the meat sold in the UK will continue to come from abroad.

The latest forecast from the Meat and Livestock Commission suggests that red meat consumption in 1998 will exceed 2.1 million tonnes – its highest level since 1992. But during the same period, farmers have seen the average price for cattle, sheep and pigs drop in real terms by more than 25%.

“There have been many pundits and commentators walking about the British consumer switching off beef,” said MLC economist Bob Bansback. “But the reality is that total meat consumption is now significantly higher than it was 10 years ago.”

Pork consumption is at its highest level ever, Mr Bansback told delegates at the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers Conference in London on Saturday. Lamb consumption is higher than any year since 1991 and beef sales have almost returned to pre-BSE levels.

The increase in consumption has largely been met by increased imports – especially in the beef sector, Mr Bansback added. Imported beef had a 15% market share in 1994 but last year this rose to 27%, due mainly to the strong Pound which sucked in cheaper supplies from abroad.

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