Beef strong during lockdown, but lamb suffers

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Beef sales stayed resilient, while lamb sales suffered during the lockdown
Beef sales stayed resilient, while lamb sales suffered during the lockdown

Related tags Meat & Seafood

Beef sales thrived despite the coronavirus pandemic in Great Britain (GB), but lamb has fared less well, according to meat bodies in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Sales data from Kantar revealed that GB beef sales had increased by 26.9% in the 12 weeks ended 17 May. It attributed the increase to an upsurge in retail sales in the wake of COVID-19, partially offset by a decline in foodservice and hospitality.

Minced beef was the biggest winner during the period, having seen sales increase by 34.5% as consumers searched for cheaper, easier to cook options. However, data suggested other beef cuts saw sales growth.

Sales of beef steaks at retail enjoyed grew by 24.0% across the 12 weeks, when compared to year-earlier levels. Within this there was a 43.9% increase in the volume of beef steaks sold specifically during the last 4 weeks of the period when compared to the same period in 2019.

The average price of beef steaks decreased slightly during this time, mainly because of increased promotional activity on the part of retailers – a significant factor driving sales up. The action was taken to boost sales of premium meat cuts to offset the temporary closure of the foodservice sector.

Commenting on the figures, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) Meat Promotion Wales market development manager Rhys Llywelyn said: “Our decisive action, early in lockdown refocused our PGI Welsh Beef marketing activities. Consumers were encouraged to cook restaurant favourites at home and be adventurous with different cuts of red meat.

UK-wide campaign for red meat

“This dovetailed into a significant UK-wide campaign funded by the Ring-Fenced Fund, combining the efforts of the three Levy Boards in Wales, Scotland and England which will have helped drive the UK-wide appetite for red meat.”

However, lamb sales did not fair quite as well as beef during the three month period – sales decreased by 7% as prices increased to £9.90/kg. This was slightly offset by an increase in consumers buying lamb, despite an overall decrease in sales volume.

HCC pointed at the unfortunate timing of the coronavirus lockdown, which ate into a peak time for lamb sales.

“With both Easter and Ramadan falling during lockdown restrictions families weren’t able to gather and celebrate with lamb as they traditionally would,”​ Llywelyn explained.

“At HCC we stepped up our consumer marketing campaign and delivered new recipes to tempt home cooks to use different PGI Welsh Lamb cuts. Our campaigns will be activated fully in summer and extend into autumn and winter.”

However, a 4 June market update from levy board AHDB noted that after the crucial period of seasonal festivals, lamb retail volumes had stabilized. Pork, meanwhile, had more than been offsetting the closure of the eating out sector, AHDB claimed​. Strong performance in sausages and bacon also helped, according to Food Manufacture’spork and bacon feature​.

Red meat strong in NI

Meanwhile, red meat sales continued to be popular in Northern Ireland as well, according to new research from the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC).

In a survey of 1,044 respondents, 90% said they still incorporate red meat as part of their diet – no significant change on results from last year (2019).

LMC industry development manager Colin Smith said it was encouraging to see positive statistics two years in a row, especially during such unprecedented times.

“LMC has continued to work hard to communicate the benefits of locally produced beef and lamb as part of a healthy balanced diet to consumers throughout the year, ​he added. “LMC’s advertising campaign ran from October 2019 to March 2020 on all forms of media. 

“Since April 2020 our advertising activity has focused primarily on social media platforms where we have been reaching and engaging with large numbers of consumers on a daily basis. LMC will continue to support our local producers by educating consumers as to the benefits of red meat as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

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