Wal-Mart's influence is hard to detect so far in much of the available data on retail meat prices or price spreads, and MLC economist Tony Fowler's latest calculations of the gaps between farmgate returns and checkout takings are particularly notable for offering little evidence to justify the claim by the National Beef Association of the multiples indulging in a "short-sighted, discount-driven roll back". The beef price spread has hardly changed from a year ago, and the MLC retail surveys in March showed the average price up 3.4% from 12 months earlier. On lamb, pork and bacon, however, retailers (or processors) have absorbed some of the livestock price increases resulting from tighter supply. See main story p26. {{MEAT }}