Concerns have been raised that cattle prices could drop over the coming weeks, with demand for steaks from both the food service sector and retailers plummeting due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Pubs and restaurants which would ordinarily buy up steaks have been forced to close, while supermarkets are only requesting the cheapest beef cuts and mince from plants struggling to keep up with retail demand for fresh meat.
Some slaughterhouses were open over the weekend to get supplies to the retailers, but Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BPMA), told Farmers Guardian the carcase balance was getting ‘hopelessly out of kilter’.
He said: “If you have to shift the steaks at knockdown prices, the value of the carcase is going to go down, and to some extent that goes back to the farmer, so you can see the price of cattle dropping.
“People may think surely with extra kills the price is going to go up, but I cannot see where that extra value is going to come from.”
Mr Allen also warned slaughterhouses and processing plants which were already under pressure because of a lack of labour are now ‘creaking at the seams’.
“Some are putting out calls for labour,” he said.
“One or two plants have run into problems because they were working on the food service side, so some of their labour has been transferred to the retail side.
“But others which are totally beholden to food service have got nowhere to go and they are not kitted up to supply the retail sector because they do not have the packaging facilities.”
The sector is facing further issues with demand for skin and hides falling too. Many factories in Italy which use the products have been closed due to coronavirus.