BIG spikes in retail beef sales are expected on the back of millions of people in capital cities being locked down again courtesy of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
However, differences in how demand, and supply, is playing out this time around are already evident.
The trend of panic buying mince and cuts like rump and roasts is nowhere near as severe as last year but there have still been reports of fairly bare supermarket shelves in places.
Retailers appear to be willing to live with that for what will likely only be short periods of time, rather than finding themselves in the vulnerable position of excess supply having paid record prices for cattle.
Last year, many had to heavily discount mince as panic buying subsided.
Meat & Livestock Australia analysts said similar consumer patterns to last year were likely, where consumers cooked more due to foodservice options being limited and fresh meat experienced the largest growth in retail value.
Analyst Simon Quilty said once lockdowns were announced evidence emerged quickly of the retail red meat sector taking off again but there was a key difference this time in that JobKeeper payments throughout the country are no longer there.
"Last year, we saw strong discretionary spending push the quality end of the beef market higher and higher but without that safety net of JobKeeper, consumers may be forced into far more discerning buying," he said.
"At the same time, the desire of supermarkets to respond to spikes in demand may be far less enthusiastic, given they know it is short-term and how much they have to pay in saleyards at the moment."
Mr Quilty said a fallout of lockdown demand dynamics this time around could well be a swing towards cheaper protein, with chicken consumption going up.
Red meat industry leaders have once again reassured consumers there will be no shortage - less than 30 per cent of the millions of tonnes of beef and veal produced in Australia is sent to the domestic market so there is plenty to divert.
MLA analysts said the processing sector's ability to continue during lockdown had been demonstrated by recent slaughter figures holding up. Sheep slaughter in fact last week climbed 45 per cent despite NSW and Victoria imposing shutdowns.
"For producers, it is reassuring that saleyards and processors remain open for business while many other industries, including construction in Sydney, have been forced to pause during lockdown," they said.
Many industry leaders believe the strong demand for red meat during lockdowns has reinforced the value of the livestock business to Australia.
Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer Travis Tobin, in a message introducing the organisation's 2021 Year Book, wrote: "The shortages of in-demand products experienced during the pandemic saw people less inclined to listen to the unfounded and inaccurate elevator pitches from opponents of the beef industry and more willing to listen to what we actually do and how we do it. People rightfully concluded that Australian beef is beef they can trust."
CCA president Markus Rathsmann wrote: "Customers buying big volumes of meat and leaving supermarket shelves bare has made more people think about where their food comes from. Now more than ever, people are taking an interest in what we do and there is no better time for us to tell our story."
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