Price spreads between farm gate and retail shelf are again attracting livestock producers' attention, mainly because the BSE crisis on the continent has led to accusations of supermarkets exploiting the availability of cheap imported beef to drive down British cattle prices. Sure enough, the beef price spread last month was wider than a year earlier. However, the September-November downtrend in prices for both cattle and retail beef contrasted with the autumn increase in 1999, perhaps indicating a recent softening of consumer demand. For lamb, and especially for pork and bacon, retail price increases have nowhere near covered livestock cost rises, although as usual the processors would say they rather than supermarkets feel the squeeze. {{MEAT }}

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