Meat wholesalers have hit back at criticism over a lack of transparency in the beef supply chain, and say that far from making profits, many processors are currently struggling to make any margin at all.
The farmers’ union has repeatedly voiced its frustration with the processing sector since beef prices started falling at the outset of the Covid-19 crisis, but now processors have spelled out the impact on their own businesses of a disrupted marketplace whch has no hotel, restaurant, catering or event outlets.
Martin Morgan, the executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) said at least 15% of pre-Covid sales outlets for beef had vanished.
“Many of our members’ plants are now operating to a reduced schedule with one business manager reporting that he’s cut the weekly throughput of cattle by 30% since the Covid-19 lockdown began,” he said.
“The harsh reality of today’s lopsided market is that most member companies’ cold stores are almost completely full with traditional high-value cuts that cannot find a buyer. While high demand for mince and roasting joints is clearly welcome, the collapse in demand for high end steaks is creating an extremely costly carcase imbalance.
“To account for lost sales of high value products, the retail price of mince would need to be increased sharply to return cattle values to pre-lockdown levels.”
Meanwhile, the farmers’ union has continued to emphasise that farm gate prices for prime Scotch beef are languishing at an unsustainable level.
Union president Andrew McCornick has written to the UK Government calling for more transparency on the wholesale value of every part of the carcase, and repeating his warning that “fairness without profiteering” in the beef chain must be prioritised.