Many of hte most popular cuts of meat are cheaper this year, giving consumers a bargain if they shop the category carefully. Michael Barker reports
Price deflation has hit many areas of The Grocer's meat, fish and egg basket as on-farm costs ease from the highs of last year.
Eight of the 12 items tracked have fallen in price over the past 12 months, with only two products rising a significant amount.
Many commodity prices had fallen since last year's peak, which, combined with pressure from retailers, had pushed prices down across the category, said Bpex consumer marketing manager Chris Lamb.
Lower feed costs are the primary reason for the price of six medium free-range eggs falling 2.2% month-on-month and 3.7% year-on-year to £1.31. Noble Foods was the first to cut its price earlier this year, with fellow packer Fridays following soon after, according to the British Free Range Egg Producers' Association.
Ahead of British Egg Week next week, the increased affordability of free-range eggs could give further impetus to their impressive recent sales, which have risen 25% since 2006. Free-range eggs now account for more than 40% of retail egg sales, according to data from the British Egg Industry Council.
Feed cost reductions have also had an impact on pork, where some of the biggest year-on-year price falls have been seen. A 454g pack of thick pork sausages has fallen 20.5% over the year, while unsmoked back bacon is 13% cheaper than a year ago. Pork chops, meanwhile, are down 2.9% in price.
Sausage prices had been pushed up last year by a lack of pigmeat, according to Andrew Keeble, founder of Debbie & Andrew's. But greater availability of pigmeat on the Continent this year and lower demand due to the disappointing summer weather had brought a fall. Heavy retail price promotions on sausages had also contributed to a fall in the average price per kilo, Keeble added.
A similar situation has been seen in the poultry category, where whole chicken has fallen 9.4% to £1.94/kg as supermarkets continue to rate it one of the key products in the ongoing price war.
Falling prices have stoked consumer demand for poultry, which many see as an affordable alternative to red meat.
Darker meat has been particularly popular, according to a spokesman for supplier 2 Sisters, so much so that demand has soared, sending the price of chicken legs rocketing 21% to an average £2.77 over the past year.
Salmon fillets have also increased in price and, at £11.39/kg, are now 8.8% more expensive than they were a year ago. The higher prices are a result of production in Chile, the world's second largest salmon producer, plummeting by up to 70% following an outbreak of the salmon anaemia virus. This has led to a predicted global undersupply of 190,000 tonnes in 2010.
"There's a shortage of salmon across the board," said one industry source. "There was an undersupply anyway as consumers have been buying more of it and producers can't keep up with demand."
However, though margin improvement was welcome for suppliers, there was a danger that if the price went too high consumers could be put off, the source added.