After several months of soaring beef prices, values have come tumbling down over the past four weeks, as a result of the cold weather and subsequent reduction in demand for barbecue cuts.

While average prices in Scotland reached 430+p per kg a month ago, latest figures show that while values remain above the critical £4 per deadweight kg bracket, they have slipped below that south of the Border.

Data for the final week of May, show that finished steers averaged 412.2p in Scotland, down 4.4p on the previous seven days, while those in England and Wales levelled at 388.5p, which represents a 3.6p decline.

Heifers in Scotland also slipped by 6.3p to 414.2p, with those killed south of the Border falling further to 386.6p, down 5.1p.

Young bulls and cow prices are heading south too with Scottish entries levelling at 404.1p (-4.8p) and 301.0p (-2.7p) respectively.

"The weather has definitely dampened beef sales," said Neil Shand, chief executive of the National Beef Association.

"This time last year, we were all enjoying glorious weather and many people were enjoying barbecues, whereas this year, May has been really cold."

He does however expect values to pick up especially in July and August when most people will be holidaying at home.

Backing up these statements, Stuart Ashworth, director of economic services at Quality Meat Scotland added that while there is some suggestion that cattle have been a bit more plentiful, supplies are still short by longer term numbers.

"Overall cattle numbers should remain tight compared to recent history for a couple of months yet but they are then expected to creep forward as calf registrations nudged up in the spring of 2019," he said, suggesting that farmgate values could come under pressure as the autumn approaches .

Mr Ashworth also highlighted how the re-opening of the hotel and restaurant trade will slowly change the pattern of consumer purchase.

"They may well eat as much beef as before but with some of that 'out of home' then they don’t need to buy out of the supermarket or high street butcher and that changes carcase balance."

On a more positive note, a fourth processing site in the UK has won approval to export its beef to the US – marking a major leap forward for the business and for the red meat sector as a whole.

Foyle Food Group in Gloucester is now listed on the official ‘USDA Approved’ list, which means commercial exports of beef can commence with immediate effect.

It comes after extensive work by the company with support from AHDB, Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the UK Export Certification Partnership.

The UK was granted access to ship beef to the all-important US market late last year – with processors WD Meats, Keepak and a second Foyle site gaining approval. There are however no approved sites in Scotland.

The four beef processing sites will compliment the growing pork exports to the US – which has seen shipments increase in value by 76% in the first quarter of 2021 to £3.8m compared to the same period last year.

The US market is currently experiencing price rises for beef and an increased demand for premium products – driven by changing purchasing behaviour across all income groups.

AHDB International market development director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Like their UK counterparts, US consumers are seeking quality meat to recreate the restaurant experience at home, resulting in a switch to premium products.

“I consider our products to fill this desire in the US, as they are high value with added credentials around our native breeds and farming methods.”

Recent data has shown the volume of premium beef products sold in retail has increased by 55% by dollar value, some 52% compared to ‘standard’ products that increased by 11% in volume. Sales of fillet steak have also increased 34% over the same period.

Dr Hadley added: “AHDB recognises the opportunity that North America offers and has increased in-country resources and activity to maximise the potential for our levy payers. Since access was granted, the UK has exported more than £3m of beef, adding value across the supply chain.”

John Wilkes, AHDB’s representative in Washington DC, said: “US consumers no longer view higher retail prices negatively for a premium meat for home consumption as opposed to the much higher costs of a premium experience in a restaurant.

“Consumers are prepared to increase spend to have a meal experience which in turn has led to a decrease in demand for 'cheap meat'. This augers well for UK beef and pork products, often sold at a premium with added claims such as high welfare and high production standards.”