The overall meat and fish basket price has remained the same month-on-month but several pork lines changed significantly in price says Richard Ford

Retailers have been working hard to keep meat affordable for consumers to ensure it doesn't become a 'special purchase' or luxury item.

The big four have been victorious this month at least, as The Grocer's meat and fish basket shows no increase in price since last month.

Though prices have stayed stable overall, several pork prices changed substantially this month. Gammon had the biggest price rise this month, up 5.2% to £5.37/kg, while back bacon had the largest fall, down 6% to £2.23 a pack.

Several pork lines are significantly more expensive than they were last year, with sausages and bacon up 39.6% and 23.9% respectively due to higher production costs.

Pork prices are likely to fluctuate even further in the coming months as a number of developments in the industry look set to affect supply and therefore price.

Bpex's March meat market update reported an expansion in the English pig breeding herd between June and December last year. If this leads to more pigs being slaughtered in the coming months it could mean lower on-shelf prices.

And this week the first meeting of the Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force was held. If this has the desired effect of restoring confidence in the supply chain, it may lead to even more pigs coming on stream - which could mean cheaper bangers and bacon for shoppers before the year's out.

On other meats, consumers are managing price rises by trading down to cheaper cuts or products. Even within meat products, consumers seem to be shunning more expensive variants for cheaper ones. One supplier told The Grocer that heavily-promoted cheaper mince was taking market share from more expensive mince.

"Higher price lean mince is really struggling against low-spec mince," he said.

Although this week's meat and fish basket shows that the price of lean steak mince has not changed month-on-month, it has increased 22.7% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, beef sirloin steak has fallen 4.3% in price. An element of this is likely to be retailers trying to entice shoppers back to the premium end of the beef category. One supplier, though, claimed that the price does tend to traditionally reduce slightly at this time of year.

The only organic item in the basket, beef mince, shows a slight increase of 0.8% month-on-month.

Despite reports that the organic market is suffering in the recession, organic meat was proving fairly resilient, said Richard Cullen, category development manager at AHDB meat services.

Shoppers who bought organic meat tended to be very committed to the sub-category, he added. However, the organic meat market, which represents only 1% of the total meat category, was beginning to show signs of weakening, he said. The price of organic mince may eventually be reduced to match that of standard mince, he predicted, as retailers look to encourage sales.

Pricing trends for chicken have fluctuated slightly since last month, more in response to a change in the current promotions at the big four than market forces, as while breast fillets rose in price, whole free-range chicken fell.