The latest Kantar UK retail data for beef sales published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) shows a 7% increase in the volume of steak meat sold in the 12 weeks to 29 October, with the spend up 10.2% at £16.63/kg.
Processed beef volumes increased by 3.2%, while burgers increased by 1.6%, but the other categories all showed year-on-year declines.
The biggest drop in consumption was for stewing beef, where retail sales were down almost 20%, while roast beef sales were down by 6.5%.
Overall beef volume sales were down just over 2%, though higher prices - particularly for mince - meant that consumers spent 7.6% more on beef purchases for the 12-week period ending 29 October than in the corresponding period last year.
Widening the analysis out for the 52-week trend, overall beef retail sales were down just under 2% in volume, but higher retail prices meant that UK consumers spent almost 9% more on beef purchases in the year ending 29 October than they did in the previous year.
Lamb sales also struggled in the 12 weeks to 29 October - down 2.5% in volume, though the consumer spend was fractionally higher at 0.5%.
However, analysis of consumer purchases shows that there was good demand for the more expensive cuts. Lamb leg sales showed a 9.7% increase in volume sales, while lamb steak sales increased by 7%.
The cheaper forequarter cuts were rejected by UK consumers, with sales of shoulder roasts down by over 25%, while stewing cuts were down by 14.5%.
UK consumers have traditionally preferred the more expensive hindquarter lamb cuts and this trend is continuing.
It means that the UK is both a major exporter and importer of sheepmeat annually, with lamb hind quarters imported, while forequarters are exported.
Overall UK beef and lamb imports
The AHDB also released the latest overall import and export data this week up to the end of September.
Beef imports for the first nine months of 2023 are running behind the previous year at 214,932t, compared with 222,542t for the same period in 2022.
Despite this, imports from Ireland increased for the first nine months of the year to 87,694t of fresh beef, up from 81,495t in the same period last year. Frozen beef imports from Ireland fell to 32,251t, compared with 38,790t in the same period in 2022.
This period shows the impact of the New Zealand and Australia trade deals, which came into effect at the start of June.
Beef imports from New Zealand are 289t for the year to date, compared with 27t in 2022, while imports from Australia have increased to 991t, up from 647t in the same period in 2022.
Lamb import volumes have fallen significantly in 2023 at 43,684t, compared with 55,268t in the first nine months of 2022.
Imports from Australia have increased from 1,247t in 2022 to 1,550t this year, while imports from New Zealand have fallen from 4,224t to 3,656t.
Frozen imports from Australia have fallen from 6,845t in 2022 to 6,039t this year, while frozen lamb imports from New Zealand are down from 25,866t to 18,345t.