Beef prices being driven up

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THERE are several reasons why beef prices have continued to rise to new levels, according to Stuart Ashworth, head of economics services at Quality meat Scotland.

Speaking yesterday, he said the number of cattle slaughtered in February in the UK was down 2 per cent on last year and this followed a 3 per cent fall in January.

“The tightness in numbers is aggravated by lower carcase weights,” he added. “During February the estimated carcase weights of clean cattle across the UK were just over 2 per cent lower than last year. Combine the two elements and supplies of beef from prime cattle during February were 4.3 per cent lower than last year.

“However, due to an increase in cull cow slaughterings this year, the overall production of beef in the UK during February was some 2.5 per cent lower than last year.”

The other major factor driving the price upwards has been multiple retailers – seeking to minimise the damage of the horsemeat scandal – buying more beef from the UK and Ireland.

A third strand in the equation, according to Ashworth, has been increased export activity.

“The latest trade data shows UK beef exports in January have increased by 15 per cent and, although there was a small increase in imports, the net effect of the trade was a decline of 600 tonnes of beef on the home market, coupled with the fall in domestic production.”