Flooding and transport problems push underfinished beasts into the trade Confusion is spreading through the British beef industry and the domestic market as the BSE crisis on the continent sparks fears of a bigger catastrophe than in 1996. Cattle prices appear to have reacted predictably, with MLC's liveweight average for Great Britain starting the week down almost 4p. Large numbers of stock were leaving the auction rings at well below 80p per live kg, at least 10p less than seemed likely just a few weeks ago. However talk among traders and producers who gathered in London for the Smithfield Show was of an unstable, complex market rather than simply a price collapse. This was echoed by representatives of all the major multiples at the show who claimed they did not have firm evidence of consumers in this country turning away from beef. At the auctions and abattoirs, cattle prices were said to be severely distorted by the weather. Disruption on the farms due to weeks of flooding and transport problems has suddenly pushed large numbers of underfinished beasts into the trade, yet quality is still attracting strong bidding by some slaughterers. In the retail market, demand measurement has become difficult because promotional activity and rapid development of added value lines have made year on year comparison of beef volume and revenue hard to interpret, as exemplified by a comment from Somerfield. . "We just been running a huge promotion for lamb so of course beef sales can look a bit weak, but are they really?" {{MEAT }}