Beef cattle prices have again improved, albeit at a half the amount they did the previous week, as a result of reduced supplies in the market place.

Official figures show UK beef and veal production in May was 67,700 tonnes, down 13% or 10,300 tonnes, compared to May 2019, making the 2020 figures the lowest in four years. This has been caused by a result of fewer slaughterings, both prime and cull animals and slightly lighter carcase weights.

Notably, prime cattle numbers in May, were down 12% to 155,600, compared to 12 months previous, with cow slaughter numbers slipping 14% to 42,500.

Production for the year-to-date (Jan-May) now stands at 372,800 tonnes, down 1% on the same period last year.

Latest deadweight averages do nevertheless show increased supplies of young bulls and cull cows in Scotland, up 4.6% and 26.4% respectively.

While most processors increased beef prices by 5p per dwkg this week, overall averages from the previous week show Scottish steers averaged 377.0p (+7.7p on the week) while heifers levelled at 378.4p (+7.1p), young bulls at 371.9p (+8.3p) and cows at 282.6p (+4.3p).

Base prices for steers and heifers hitting ‘spec in Scotland were 382.0p and 381.5p per dwkg respectively.

While beef prices have improved over the past six weeks, there is potential for them to rise further if the main supermarkets supported British farmers instead of relying on imported product.

Ironically, it is the German retailers, Aldi and Lidl that continue to stock most Scottish product going by the figures from The SF’s Retail Radar.

For the week beginning June 8, Aldi introduced British branded burgers into their summer barbecue range, which dropped their Scotch percentage of the beef range to 96% with lamb sitting at 92% Scotch.

Similarly Lidl has a core range of Scotch beef and lamb with some British seasonal product entering in the beef range. Scotch product makes up 90% of the beef range and 100% of the lamb on sale.

This compares to Asda which saw Scotch beef make up just 11% of the range with no Scotch lamb. Some 26% of the beef was imported from Ireland with 55% of the lamb brought in from New Zealand.

Morrisons continue to show strong availability on both Scotch beef and lamb, with the former making up 68% of the range and the latter at 55%. All other products on the shelf are British.

Sainsbury’s has again let British farmers down, with Scotch beef making up around 14% of the available range with 8% imported. They have nevertheless recently reintroduced Scotch lamb, which accounted for 46% of the range with imports at 20%.

Disappointingly, the number of Scottish products in Tesco remains low, with just 11% on the beef shelves and 31% imported from Ireland.

Similarly, there was no Scotch lamb on with 44% of the range imported.

On a more positive note, the Scottish Beef Association has welcomed the Prime Minister’s agreement – given at Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday – that imported beef should not be labelled as British just because it is packaged here.

The answer was given in response to a question from Orkney MP, Alistair Carmichael.

Mr Carmichael had been lobbied by SBA deputy chairman Paul Ross. The Prime Minister said: “Now we have left the EU, Scottish beef farmers must be given all the protections they need.”

Jamie Blackett, SBA spokesperson, added: “This is an important concession that the SBA will follow up. We compete on quality and the reliability of our product based on traceability and quality assurance. It is important that we close this loophole and stop overseas beef masquerading as Scotch.”


% of Scotch % of Non Scotch

Beef Nov-19 58% 42%

W/C 8/6/20 51% 49% 9% Irish

Lamb Nov-19 57% 43%

W/C 8/6/20 39% 61% 22% NZ

Percentage of range that is Scotch

Beef Lamb

Nov 19 W/C 8/6/20 Nov 19 W/C 8/6/20

Aldi 100% 96% 100% 92%

Asda 15% 11% 19% 0%

Lidl 100% 90% 100% 100%

Morrisons 70% 68% 75% 55%

Sainsburys 15% 14% 57% 46%

Tesco 78% 11% 67% 0%