The mults have significantly cut back on the number of promotions they are running on red meat, as global meat supplies tighten and wholesale prices firm.

Over the past four weeks, 16% more pork was sold at full price than during the same period in 2011, while the amount of beef and lamb sold at full price was up 5% year-on-year [Kantar Worldpanel 4 w/e 19 February 2012]. In total, 70.4% of pork volume sales were at full price, with lamb at 74% and beef at 63.4%.

The most dramatic reductions in promotions were on pork roasting joints and stewing lamb, which both saw a 31% year-on-year rise in volume sold at full price.

“The issue is really about tightening meat supplies worldwide and the fact that animal prices are firming,” said Richard Cullen, consumer insight manager at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Over the past three years, New Zealand lamb has soared 57.8% and is 23.1% more expensive than it was this time last year, with UK lamb up 40.4% over three years and up nearly 10% year-on-year [Mintec]. Price rises on UK beef have also been dramatic, with prices up 44.3% over three years and 23.8% year-on-year. Increases on pork have been more modest - Danish pork is up 0.9% over three years, although it has risen 6.1% in the past year, with UK pork up 7.4% over three years and 4.1% year-on-year.

“Retailers are going to have to look at secure supply contracts to ensure they don’t have empty shelves, particularly of domestic product,” added Cullen.

The industry was now watching closely to see whether the recent reduction in deals was a longer-term trend or simply the calm before the promotional storm over Easter, in which red meat typically featured heavily, Cullen said.