Analysts at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have predicted that red meat and pork joints will challenge poultry for a place on dinner plates this Christmas.

This conclusion was drawn after they looked at recent buying behaviours, the cost-of-living crisis and market trends, as well as factoring in the current avian influenza (bird flu) crisis in the UK.

These reasons, coupled with turkey losing volume share last December, led the AHDB experts to believe that people will move away from the traditional centre piece to other options.

The predictions follow warnings this week of a possible shortage of Christmas turkeys and price hikes due to the country’s largest ever bird flu outbreak.

AHDB senior retail insight manager, Kim Heath, said that turkey shortages, the cost-of-living crisis and new buying trends over the last few Christmas’, all have the potential to lift sales of red meat this year.

“After two years of unpredictable Christmas periods, we had hoped this year would be about treating and huge celebrations,” she said.

“But the challenging economic situation means the cost-of-living crisis makes Christmas 2022 just as unpredictable as a Covid-19 Christmas.”

Heath added that it is likely that a shift towards cheaper roasting joints will be seen, which she thinks will mainly benefit pork.

“But, with a potential shortage of turkeys, there is an opportunity for people to trade up to beef and lamb for consumers who want a showstopping centre piece, especially if they can have more people round the dinner table this year,” she said.

According to AHDB analysts, Christmas will still be the biggest seasonal event for retailers, with consumers spending more – even in these times of economic uncertainty.

During the 2008 recession, spend per household on consumer-packaged foods during December was 11% higher than the average of the previous three months.

“Despite the economic situation this year, we can safely predict that Christmas will still see significant uplifts compared to the rest of the year,” Heath said.

“However, a shopping basket may look different to previous years to cope with budgetary restraints.

“It needs to be remembered that the fundamentals of a Christmas shop will remain due to tradition, but small tweaks may be made.

“With more shoppers looking to reduce their spend, tactical support in-store is going to be essential for the meat and dairy categories,” she concluded.