Price of beef doubles as global trends and TV chefs spark increased demand

Tim, Philip and Jamie, Dawson's butchers
Tim, Philip and Jamie, Dawson's butchers

The price of beef has doubled in the last four years with ‘thrifty’ meat cookery becoming more difficult according to a Boston butcher.

Wholesale carcass prices have risen from about £600 to £1,200 on average over this period. Philip Dawson, of Dawson’s Butchers said there are many reasons for this, but higher feed prices and a reduction in the number of beef cattle in the UK are main factors.

Pigs fry

Pigs fry

“It’s taken longer for cattle numbers to improve after the foot and mouth outbreak. Cattle take longer to mature so the process has been slower. Pigs and sheep are much quicker,” he explained.

Other meats, such as lamb have also become expensive due to increased demand from European markets. Eblex, the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry, reported significant increases in lamb exports last year. Exports in 2013 to Germany were up 25 per cent and exports to the Netherlands rose 133 per cent. France continues to take half of all UK lamb exports.

Another factor has been the impact of cooking on television.

Some previously cheap cuts, such as oxtail, are now fairly expensive because of their use by celebrity chefs. “If a TV chef cooks with something in the week, customers come in and ask for it on Saturday,” Mr Dawson said. “Years ago, we used to give oxtail away, but not anymore.”

A change in kitchen knowledge over time and our reliance on supermarkets has also had an impact on what we buy. “Shopping has changed. There’s a younger generation now who don’t know what to ask for. This has lead to a change in cooking,” he noted. Such cuts include traditional classics such as neck of lamb.

Mr Dawson said there are a number of economic options: “Pork is still the best buy. You get a lot for your money.

“Cuts such as belly pork are cheap. Mince too is good value. Some of the cheaper cuts, such as shin of beef, have great flavour. Breast of lamb is a good cheap cut too.”

He also recommended the Lincolnshire speciality ‘pig’s fry’, a selection of various parts of the pig, including liver, kidney, some lean meat, some belly, sometimes heart and sweetbreads (see inset).

With increased demand for meat globally, prices are expect to continue to rise. China alone now consumes half of the world’s pork.

As such, prices of meat on the plates of Boston will increasingly be linked to what is going on plates in Beijing.