Cold Weather Increases Beef Consumption

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - During December the retail analysts and commentators made much of consumers’ inability to get out and about during the cold and icy weather and the impact of this on retail sales, reports the Livestock and Meat Commission.
calendar icon 27 January 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

However, while some high street outlets may have suffered, the latest Kantar data on retail meat sales show that consumers made a beeline for the beef counter despite the snow, copper-fastening the notion that consumers turn to beef when the winter bites.

Farmgate prices increased sharply this December and perhaps one reason for this improvement in prices was the increased demand for beef in the run up to Christmas. In the four weeks ending 26 December 2010, retail sales of beef were 11 per cent higher in volume terms (Figure 1). This was the highest level of beef sales by volume, recorded by Kantar over a 4-weekly period, at anytime in the last four years. What makes this even more encouraging was that this increased level of sales was achieved with an average retail beef price that was only 1 per cent lower than the same period in 2009 (Figure 2). This meant that overall expenditure on beef in December was up by 10 per cent compared to the same four week period in 2009.

There were increased sales of all beef cuts with the exception of frying / grilling product. Sales of roasting joints were up six per cent year on year, while mince sales were 14 per cent higher than the same period last year. However, the standout figure is the 34 per cent increase in sales of stewing product during December. While this is very positive it is not overly surprising.

Last January, when a similar cold spell gripped the UK, sales of stewing beef in GB increased by 26 per cent year-on-year. It would appear that when the cold bites, consumers have a tendency to turn to stewing beef to make hearty stews and hotpots.

Over the course of 2010 stewing accounted for 14.2 per cent of fresh beef volume sales, so a 34 per cent increase in sales of stewing product represents a significant boost to the industry, as does the 14 per cent increase in mince sales, given that mince accounted for around 48 per cent of all fresh beef sales during 2010.

These figures cap a positive year for the retail beef market. Over the whole of 2010, total beef sales were up three per cent in terms of both expenditure and volume compared to 2009 levels. This was despite an average increase in price (year-on-year) of one per cent for the whole year. With sales picking up momentum in the final months of 2010, this may bode well for producers as we move into 2011.

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