The beef industry has branded British retailers irresponsible for encouraging shoppers to buy steaks at a time of year when demand is traditionally high anyway.

The NFU is calling on the multiples to rethink their pricing policy so shoppers buy a broader range of different cuts, making better use of the whole carcase.

Deadweight cattle prices have dipped 5p per kilogram over the past two weeks and the union says that is because it is finding it harder to sell joints and forequarter cuts because the hot weather has skewed consumption in favour of cold meats and steak.

Alastair Johnston, livestock adviser, said: "We are calling on retailers to adopt a more responsible and sustainable pricing policy on their beef products.

"British steaks are sold at deflated prices that discourage the purchase of alternative cuts, which in turn creates carcase imbalance and reduces the overall value of the animal. In other parts of Europe, steaks are priced at a responsible level which in turn encourages consumers to use cheaper cuts.

"We would like to see UK retailers adopt a similar policy rather than discount the value of British steaks."

But Sainsbury's beef buyer Richard Squire rubbished claims that retailers were to blame, saying he was investing in measures to balance consumption.

"We've got strong joint promotions planned, even though we don't really make much money on it, to keep carcase utilisation up."

And the National Beef Association said it was not just a retailer issue. Chairman Duff Burrell said there had always been a problem in the UK with carcase imbalance, which had been worsened by the recent hot weather.

"Quality exports are for top cuts only - the same that are wanted here. It makes the forequarter difficult to sell. We have to learn to work with this problem."