Defra survey suggests notable fall in meat purchases

Purchases of fresh meat have declined significantly since 2009, with beef showing the most marked downward trend, according to new statistics released by Defra.

The Family Food 2012 report, which surveys around 6,000 households in the UK annually, found that purchases of raw carcase meat fell by 7.7% between 2009-2012. Beef, which accounts for around half of all raw carcase meat purchases, fell 6.8% during the same period, with even mince – which is the only category to show a long-term upward trend – falling 11% between 2011-2012.

Lamb purchases have fluctuated, but were 22% down on 2009 levels last year. Purchases of pork remain “relatively unchanged”, the report said.

In contrast, purchases of non-carcase meat and meat products have been relatively stable, with a 0.8% increase in 2009-2012. Purchases of uncooked chicken have been rising since 2005, and were up 5.1% from 2009 last year, although the report added that this was not a “significant trend”. Cooked and canned meat products have generally been on a downward trend, but there has been an 8.2% increase in meat-based ready meals and convenience meat products between 2009-2012.

The report added that prices of lamb had seen the biggest increases since 2007, followed by pork, beef, poultry and bacon.

Comparing regional statistics, the report found that Northern Ireland had the highest meat purchases, followed by Wales and England. Scotland had the fewest meat purchases.

The decline in meat purchases reflects a wider decline in fresh food purchases, with milk, cheese, fish, potatoes and bread all falling since 2009. Household spending on food and drink has fallen by 3.1%, while eating out expenditure has decreased by 5.6%. The report attributed the decline to rising prices, pointing out that food accounts for a bigger percentage of household incomes than in 2007, with lower-income families particularly affected.


However, Richard Cullen of Eblex pointed out that the report did not paint a wholly accurate picture of UK meat consumption, due to the nature of the survey used for the report, which asks people to record what they were eating and calculated volumes using a standard weight.

He said that retail sales data from Kantar Worldpanel suggested that carcase meat purchases dropped a more modest 1.9% between 2009-2012, with beef down just 0.75%. Pork was up 5.1% in that period and lamb was the biggest loser at 20% down, although this year lamb sales have rebounded and are on a similar level to 2009.

Cullen said that 2013 has been a relatively mixed year for meat purchases, with the horsegate scandal and scratch-cooking revival boosting fresh meat consumption in the early part of the year, but hot weather dampening sales over the summer.