The meat trade’s ability to absorb such large volumes of beef while still yielding the high prices achieved last quarter might reflect the same demand polarisation seen in other consumer markets, where spending has been strong on premium and bargain lines but weak in the middle. The poor sales of fresh pork support this theory. If shoppers have come to regard beef as an affordable luxury, rather than the mainstream commodity enjoying broader demand recovery implied by MAFF’s volume figures, then retailers’ sales and processors’ margins could be vulnerable when consumer confidence next subsides.