From grocery researchers Kantar Worldpanel comes news that after years of plummeting consumption volume sales of lamb grew by 14% in the year ending August 13th 2013. (Source: BPEX). By contrast pork consumption dropped by 5% and beef by 2%.
The reason is price of course. Over the same period the price of lamb per kilo dropped by 5% to £7.85 per kilo, compared with an increase of 6% for both beef and pork.
Staples like bacon and sausages have suffered from price increases too. The price hikes have led to a 2% drop in bacon sales, and sausage sales are down by 4%. The only other sector to show an increase is sliced cooked meats which grew sales by 1%.
At the same time as these figures were released we heard Andrew Large of the British Poultry Council predicting that by next year chicken will account for over half of all meat eaten, up from just over a third 20years ago. He attributes the growth in sales to price. In the last two decades he says, chicken prices went up by 31%, whereas beef prices went up by 50% and lamb prices have doubled.
It is easy to over analyse the figures. We can though conclude that price dictates consumers’ buying habits and they readily switch from one type of protein to another. Which means that the price of, say, beef cannot rise in isolation without there being a knock on effect on consumption.
We might also conclude that the image and benefits of red meat, particularly British produced meat, need to be constantly reinforced to consumers. If they felt that red meat was a “must have” then they would bite the bullet and purchase the same quantity regardless of price rises. Yet despite the increase in lamb sales in the last year, the overall volume sold of red meat including bacon and sausages dropped by 2 %. This may seem small, but from a producer perspective a drop in demand is a cause for concern as it all too often leads to oversupply and a consequent fall in farm gate prices.