Small numbers for spring lamb

Welcome to the first in our series of monthly updates on the beef and lamb sectors. The aim of this regular feature is to give Meat Trades Journal readers an insight into what's happening at market and in the supply chain; how supply and demand are affecting prices; whether certain beef or lamb cuts have good availability and therefore offer particularly good value at a given time; and to provide retail and catering butchers with advice on how to get the best from the cuts concerned.

We've also spoken to Eblex, the industry body for the beef and lamb sector, to provide you with guidance on what to do with those cuts and to get the latest news and advice to help you add value to your business.

FINELY BALANCED BEEF QUOTA

The beef market is finely balanced, with just enough product to cope with demand. With very little imported beef coming to the UK at the moment due in part to the political situation in Argentina and traceability issues in Brazil additional pressure is being put on domestic supply.

Buyers are seeing the knock-on effect in the form of sharp price increases at market. One market expert claimed that strip loins and rib-eyes had increased in price by over 10% in 10 days in April.

With market conditions pushing prices up and supply far from plentiful, industry experts are advising butchers to explore alternative beef cuts. The thick flank is currently a good buy, offering a cheaper flash-frying steak, according to one supplier. Another cut offering good value at the moment is the salmon cut from the silverside. Eblex suggests using the salmon cut to create thin-cut thick flanks or escalopes. For alternative ideas and cutting specifications to utilise these primals visit www.eblextrade.co.uk.

LAMB WAITING FOR NEW SEASON TO KICK OFF

It has been widely reported that lamb prices are high at the moment. Lamb is a premium product, which commands a premium price point. However, this price point has been pushed up by a lack of supply in recent times. Right on the cusp of the seasonal switch-over, the industry is waiting with bated breath to see how new-season lamb supply shapes up.

Early reports are that supply is slow new-season lamb has only been seen in very small numbers in Smithfield in the past two weeks but that might be down to the harsher-than-usual winter experienced in the UK this year. Industry commentators, however, are optimistic and believe that there is likely to be sufficient supply to meet trade demand. One major wholesaler claimed that early indications bode well for a good yield.

CUTTING SPECIFICATION UPDATES

Eblex recently launched the Lamb Cutting Guide for the Halal Market. Eblex has also recently updated its Cutting Specification Manual. The third edition now includes new lamb product specifications, which reflect cutting methods used in the halal sector.

Members of the Eblex Quality Standard scheme who have registered to receive the updates will automatically receive the new specifications. If you have not registered for updates, you can do so by calling the scheme hotline on 0845 491 8787.

MEAT DISPLAY LAYOUT PLANNER

Eblex is helping smaller multiple retailers and butchers to plan effective displays for either fresh meat serve-over counters or multi-deck cabinets with an online Meat Display Layout Planner.

The system, which can be found on www.eblextrade.co.uk, has been developed to help retailers improve displays, promote consistency among shops and, ultimately, maximise profits. It can also be used as a helpful training tool for new staff or for retailer inductions to merchandising.

The Eblex Meat Display Layout Planner is designed to reflect shopper purchasing behaviour, consumer trends and seasonality in order to create effective fresh meat displays, simply and quickly.

CUT OF THE MONTH

The seasonal nature of meat supply and demand means certain beef and lamb primals are more widely available at given times. Promoting alternative cuts from these primals helps the industry to reduce overstocks.

The Eblex 'Cut of the Month' has been developed to help retailers maximise profits from beef and lamb cuts when they are in abundant supply.

The lamb 'Cut of the Month' for May is Rustic Lamb Chunkies. Produced from a boneless trimmed shoulder, Rustic Lamb Chunkies are ideal for marinating and roasting on the barbecue if the weather allows or in the oven. These are a great way of utilising lamb forequarter, providing customers with a flavoursome cut and value for money.

Look out for our next added-value update on the beef and lamb sectors on 11 June.

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