Environmentalists, vegans and indeed the meat processors might like us to think consumption of red meat is on the wane, but the good news is demand is on the up with total retail sales for both beef and lamb improving in the summer months.

Contrary to popular belief that sheep meat sales are in decline, the value and indeed volume of lamb increased by 2% and 1% respectively compared to the same period last year.

The figures from Kantar data for the 12 weeks to September 9, show fresh and frozen primary lamb recorded particularly sharp growth, being up 3% in both volume and value, with a few surprises in the category.

Leg joints and chops/steaks, which account for 60% of fresh and frozen primary lamb sales in volume, both saw declines in volume. This was however, offset by growth in shoulder joints and marinades. Mince, which has done well in beef and pork, recorded a decline.

Total retail sales of beef also recorded a 2% rise in volume and a 1% increase in value during the same period. Fresh and frozen primary beef sales grew with the only key sub-categories not to record growth, being steaks and marinades. However, as both of these are higher value products, the total value of fresh and frozen primary beef grew less than the volume.

Cheaper products such as mince and stewing beef both recorded a rise in market penetration and saw shoppers, on average, purchase more. Burgers and grills, which are not a primary beef product, recorded a 1% decline in volume although a higher average price meaning that value was steady year-on-year.

Such figures are good news for the industry but they still don't answer the question why ex-farm prices particularly for beef have slumped by £200+ per head, especially when industry experts have been talking of a shortage of beef cattle in the second half of the year since January.

Looking at the bigger picture, global beef and veal production is expected to reach 61.86m tonnes CWE in 2020, 1% (+0.6 million) more than in the previous year, according to the latest outlook from the USDA.

Production in Europe is expected to fall by 2% next year to 7.78m tonnes as a reflection of the long-term shrinkage of the EU cow herd, although the picture does vary between member states.

Similarly, beef production in China is expected to fall 3% in 2020 on the back of record supplies this year, which the nation is unlikely to be able to match next year.

Domestic beef prices have also been supported by increased demand as Chinese consumers turn away from pork to alternative protein sources. As such, this has incentivised producers to put more cattle forward for slaughter.

The prolonged period of drought and high culling rates in Australia mean that production in Australia is forecast to decline by 10% next year. However, the national herd has been reported at 26m head – the smallest in 20 years.

On the other side of the equation, beef production in the US is expected to increase next year with the States being in a favourable position to expand its market share in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as Australia may struggle to maintain its share with smaller available exportable supplies. Additionally, improved domestic demand, heavier carcase weights and higher slaughter will likely support production.

And while beef production in Brazil is expected to rise 6% next year, the country has been able to capitalise on the increased demand in China, and so exports this year are expected to be the highest on record. Improved domestic demand and a more favourable exchange rate have also supported production.