Consumers are now spending more on beef at retail than two years ago, according to new market analysis conducted by Kantar.

This, combined with a tight supply of cattle on the ground and firm consumer demand, is supporting the strong farmgate prices currently seen at livestock markets.

Retail sales of beef – along with other meats such as lamb – increased hugely during 2020 as people started to cook more adventurous family meals at home during pandemic restrictions. General retail trends are returning to pre-Covid patterns, however red meat sales remain high compared to 2019.

During the 12-week period to October 31, 2021, consumers spent a total of £512.1 million on beef at retail across Great Britain. Although this is down on the same period last year, it is 4.4% higher than pre-Covid spend in 2019.

Glesni Phillips, Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) said: “The context is important when analysing consumer purchasing patterns.

“Despite the relaxation of Covid restrictions, consumer shopping and eating habits remain unsettled.

"The foodservice sector is slowly recovering following a very turbulent time, but was still only 75% of its size in 2019 by quarter two of this year.

With grocery sales in the UK recently up by 7.3% when compared to 2019, it is clear that more consumers are still choosing to eat at home and are making bigger but less frequent trips to their local retailer.

“This year, people have been spending more on steaks and roasting joints than they did in 2019, whilst the proportion sold as mince is smaller.

"This is positive in terms of maintaining carcase balance and maximising carcase value.”

'A firm demand for beef'

Phillips added: “Industry reports suggest a firm demand for beef in the run-up to Christmas as people get together to feast on good food.

“The latest data from the British Cattle Movement Service [BCMS] shows that the total number of cattle on the ground over the age of 12 months was down 1% on the year as of 1 October 2021.

This suggests that GB supply will remain tight in the short term which should help to maintain the strong prices for liveweight prime cattle at auction markets.

The average liveweight price of prime cattle currently stands at 234.6p/kg, which is 32p and 44p higher than the same period last year and the five-year average respectively.