Beef prices ‘may cause backlash’

A WARNING has come over a potential backlash to soaring beef prices as judges selected entries for the McIntosh Donald/Tesco Scotch steak competition at next month’s Royal Highland Show.

Speaking at McIntosh Donald’s meat plant at Portlethen, near Aberdeen, judges from the top end of the retail, catering and mail order sectors all reported increased beef sales and a spin-off benefit from the recent horsemeat scandal.

But all warned of a possible backlash when the high price of prime cattle, currently being absorbed by the meat trade, percolates down the line to the consumer.

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“My concern is that once the full increase in the price of beef is passed on down to retail level, we will begin to see consumer resistance,” said Steve Lamb, operations director of Inverurie-based Donald Russell, who are major suppliers to leading hotels and restaurants as well as operating an extensive meat mail order business.

But he said the company had seen an increase in beef sales in the aftermath of the horsemeat scandal.

“Our call centre received only one or two calls about horsemeat and our sales have actually increased since the scandal broke,” said Lamb. “Our customers are extremely savvy. They look for value for money and there has been a shift from more expensive steaks to the less expensive end of our meat offering, such as lasagne.

The manager of Tesco’s Corstorphine store in Edinburgh, Andrew Whyte, said: “We have a lot of interest from our customers in the provenance of our meat supplies – one in three customers will ask where our beef, lamb and pork is sourced,” he said.