It’s official – standard quotations for prime Scottish beef cattle have at long last exceeded the magical £4 per deadweight kg mark and look set to continue heading north due to reduced supplies and increased demand from consumers cooking from home.

Latest figures for the week ending March 20, show the all Scottish steer average rose a massive 8.5p per deadweight kg on the week to level at 398.6p, with those hitting the R4L spec at 402.5p.

The overall heifer average in Scotland improved by just shy of 9p, to cash in at 400.5p, with those hitting ‘spec adding just shy of 5p per kg at 404.8p.

Young bulls and cows also saw huge increases on the previous seven days with the former rising 18.3p to 381.1p and cows at 285.0p per dwkg which represents a 7.8p rise.

Add on this week’s price hikes at all deadweight centres with Kepak, McIntosh Donald at Portlethen, quoting 405p for standard spec carcases and Scotbeef at 403p, and the value of Scotland’s prime beef cattle is at long last getting nearer the figure it deserves to be.

Prices are now almost 50p per deadweight kg above those of this time last year with the latest figures from AHDB showing throughputs down by 2700 on the week.

It’s a similar situation in Northern Ireland where prime cattle values are all up on the year on the back of reduced throughputs. The last full week saw 6667 pass through local processing plants with total numbers for the last six weeks amounting to 40,274 head – down 4.9% on the same period in 2020.

With growing demand for beef as more consumers look to cook meals at home as the disruption in foodservice sector continues due to Covid-19, sales are also well up on the year.

Latest available figures from Kantar Worldpanel show that beef sales increased by a massive 15.8% in the 12 weeks ending February 21, 2021, to total £1.152m, with volume sales growing by 12.7% during the same period to total 165,200 tonnes.

Spend on primary beef grew 18.5% to £621.6m based on an 18.8% increase in volume sales combined with a marginal decrease in average price.

Processed beef also recorded growth in terms of both volume and sales during the 12-week period, with the overall value of sales rising 22.2% to total £165.9m. Volume sales increased by 20.6% year on year with the average retail price rising by 1.4% to £8.56/kg.

All beef cut categories recorded an increase in terms of value sales during the 12-week period compared to the same time the previous year, with steaks, burgers, grills and marinades seeing the greatest increase in value sales. GB steak by volume increased by 32.1% with burgers and grills rising 27.2% and beef marinades by 46.3%.

However, while prime cattle prices are well up on the year, finishers are also having to pay a lot more for store cattle coming on the market with most centres quoting values up anywhere between 30p and 50p per live kg.

Most of the bigger store cattle sales are seeing bullocks and heifers average 240-260p per kg, which compares to the same centres last year selling the same cattle at 210p-225p per live kg.

“Store cattle have been getting dearer every week since January, which is basically down to the increased demand for them and the scarcity of fat cattle in the system,” Willie Hamilton, Craig Wilson auctioneer at Ayr and Newton Stewart, told The Scottish Farmer.

“All the abattoirs are looking for increased throughputs to keep their plants going which coupled with all the major supermarkets looking to support British farmers more, is boosting trade.”

He added that while all types of cattle have improved in value on the year, black and white dairy bullocks have risen by the biggest percentage, with such animals selling at up to 203.5p per live kg through Newton Stewart recently, which compares to nearer 160p, 12 months ago.