We have seen extraordinary demand for Australian red meat at supermarkets, butchers and wholesalers. It has confirmed what we in the industry already know – that red meat is part of a healthy staple diet.

Despite prolonged droughts since 2013 across Australia, red meat is one of Australia’s most popular proteins and prices are higher on the back of seasonal conditions. This is part of a normal cycle for a popular food reliant on weather cycles. 

We anticipate that current demand will flatten in the immediate future for our producer although this will very much depend on the extent of household stockpiling, and minimising disruptions to our supply chains.

We have no comments on reports of price jumps on certain cuts or within certain retailers. If there are profiteering practices during a time of national emergency – COVID-19 – this is absolutely not on and customers should escalate this with the ACCC.

Contact the ACCC

The Australian red meat and livestock industry does not encourage anti-competitive and profiteering practices and encourages customers to escalate this with the ACCC in their preferred way. Please note we understand the ACCC is experiencing high call volumes as COVID-19 unfolds. 

Contact the Australian red meat and livestock industry

COVID-19 is a complex public health situation and is moving quickly. We will assist by connecting you with the most appropriate person to speak with within the industry. Anna Neelagama, 0448 692 245, anna@rmac.com.au  

Background to red meat prices

In 2019 both cattle herd and sheep flock numbers dropped to multi-decade lows as the impact of a widespread drought across key production areas (particularly in NSW) took its toll. The drought additionally drove a spike in feed costs across the board and led to all of the major proteins reaching record-high retail prices in 2019, according to the ABS.

This is a good thing for Australia’s red meat farmers/ producers and has been reflected in recording breaking livestock prices.

  ABS Beef Retail Prices: The average retail price of beef for 2019 was a new record at $20.64/kg. This is a $1.225/kg growth (or 6.3%) growth on last year. Retail beef prices have been on the rise since 2014 and experienced growth in 23 of the last 25 quarters, according to the ABS. As a point of reference since 2013, the average retail price of beef has increased 35%, while pork has gone up only 12% and chicken only 1% over the same period. 

  ABS Lamb Retail Prices: The average retail price of lamb for 2019 was a new record at $17.56/kg. This is a $1.89/kg growth (or 12%) growth on the same period last year. Retail lamb prices, similar to beef, have been on the rise since 2014 and experienced growth in 16 of the last 20 quarters, according to the ABS. Retail lamb prices have increased by 40% since 2013 and has developed a growing premium between it and protein rivals, such as pork/poultry.

Coming into 2020 many producers were looking to rebuild their herd/flock with the right conditions and from late January, through to March a number of widespread rainfall events have swept across northern and eastern Australia driving reprieve from the dry conditions and reinvigorating producers’ demand and desire for livestock. This has led to a significant immediate tightening of available livestock for slaughter and rapid increase in livestock prices. 

Looking ahead…

The growth in Australian cattle prices has just begun to ease. Looking ahead, there are still a wide range of factors that will continue to impact the prices and supply of red meat across the supply chain. 

The obvious immediate unpredictable factor is COVID-19 – the severity and length of the outbreak domestically and in key international markets will greatly impact our ability to supply the market and combined with the impact this has on consumer demand, will play a key role in market pricing.

Other key factors include, but are not limited to, seasonal conditions domestically, global economic growth, the availability of labour, exchange rates, crop forecasts and red meat production from competing suppliers.