RETAIL beef prices are finally starting to simmer down on the back of dropping cattle prices and butchers are already reporting a swing back to higher value cuts.
Indicative retail prices for the June quarter from Meat and Livestock Australia show a 1.7 per cent drop in beef to $19.17 cents a kilogram, a 1pc drop in pork to $11.70, a 2.1pc jump in lamb to $15.33 and chicken remaining on par at $5.39.
Beef remains in the number one position for fresh meat sales in value share at 35.1pc.
Record beef retail prices through the past 18 months have likely seen pork and chicken capture a greater volume share domestically, although retailers say meat consumption figures can be misleading.
Most feel Australia’s beef consumption has displayed a fair bit of resilience through a time of increased price pressure.
Government agriculture economists have beef consumption at 26.1kg per person for the current financial year, slightly down on last year.
That compares to 26.5kg for pork and 47.7kg for poultry. It will be the first time pork has overtaken beef and is likely reflective of an oversupply of pigs putting hefty downward pressure on prices.
However, the forecasts are that by 2023, beef will be back to 24.4kg, pork up at 26.5kg and poultry at a whopping 51.5kg.
NSW butcher Robert Constable, Singleton, chair of the Australian Meat Industry Council’s retail branch, said fast food chains played a big role in consumption data.
“Beef in general doesn’t have a KFC equivalent,” he said.
“It still dominates in the butcher shop. For us it accounts for more than 40pc of business.
“On a general day-to-day basis, beef owns the hearts of Australians; lamb owns the special occasion space and chicken is a price-driven meal.
“In the last month, we’ve probably seen a shift back to beef just because lamb is looking expensive in comparison.”
Mr Constable felt grassfed beef was very well placed right now.
“Anything intensively fed will only get more expensive given the drought situation. By this time next year, expect chicken to be substantially dearer and - if there are any pig farmers left - pork also.
“Beef prices should remain stable for some time now and the quality of Australian beef has never been better.”
Queensland meat wholesaler Julian Waghorn, chief executive officer at Australian Wholesale Meats, said pork prices had hit all-time lows.
Boneless pork rind that was $8kg at the start of the year was now selling for half that, he said.
“But that hasn’t really affected what we are doing with beef. Generally speaking, there is little substitution between pork and beef,” he said.
In some categories, the rises and falls in beef this year had been quite sharp and that was “no good for anyone,” Mr Waghorn said.
“Striploins, for example, were $17kg not very long ago and are now $12/kg - that is historically fairly cheap,” he said.
“Customers like consistency so big fluctuations have a negative effect.”