In the next few days, Defra secretary Hilary Benn will call on retail bosses to support the British beef and lamb industry in the wake of the latest foot and mouth outbreak.

NFU livestock adviser Peter King, who has been asked to brief Benn before he speaks to the retailers, said he would be pressing for tangible and creative support from supermarkets to clear the glut of lambs by boosting consumer demand.

Deadweight lamb prices have tumbled more than 20% since the start of August to below the 200p per kg mark and some meat buyers have been accused of profiteering.

"We're looking at ways to stimulate an increase in demand by working with other retailers, foodservice operators and celebrity chefs," said King. "We'd like to see something similar to Tesco's pledge to compensate farmers for the loss of the skin trade."

Asda's recent move to put meat from light lambs, which are usually exported, in its organic box schemes, was also singled out for praise.

"We're not used to dealing with light lambs in this country," King said. "Asda's move is a great example of retailers supporting the industry."

As The Grocer went to press, a third case of FMD had been confirmed near Egham in Surrey, export markets remained closed and only animal movements direct to slaughter were allowed.

Supermarkets including Tesco and Waitrose have pledged to stand by British farmers. But the pressure on farmers to sell animals is driving down prices. Tesco supplier St Merryn has guaranteed 220p/kg for lamb after protests at a Ruthin store last week.

"Many thousands of sheep are trapped on farms, and the outlook is incredibly bleak," said Brian Pack, chief executive of Inverurie-based livestock auctioneer ANM. "If you've got two sheep looking for one hook, it's a disaster for prices."