Consumers may find themselves between a chop and a hard place as the price of meat continues to rise.
In a desperate aim to save a few rands, many consumers have ditched the meat isle at their favourite supermarkets and are now buying directly from butchers, who generally supply their meat at cheaper prices.
Because of this, many consumers have been forced to cut back on their favourite weekend activity – braaiing – with some choosing meat suppliers in favour of quantity rather than quality.
In the Abstract of Agricultural Statistics released last year and drawn up by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the average price of beef is said to have gone from R2927 per chilled carcass in 2014 to R3254 in 2015.
Pork went from R2045 per chilled carcass in 2014 to R2232 the following year, with mutton costing R4323 in 2014 rising to a new price of R5141 in 2015.
Pieter Cornelius – livestock manager at AMT which specialises in analyses and forecasting in the agricultural industry – said the drought was a major factor affecting meat prices at present.
According to Cornelius, statistics last month show the slaughter of beef cattle declined by 6% when compared to the same time last year, while the slaughter of sheep and lamb has declined by 0.7% year-on-year.
He said as far as the pork industry is concerned, due to the fact that pork producers are not so dependent on climatic changes, the price variance has not been as great as other meat products, having just increased by 11.9% year-on-year.
“The decline in beef and mutton slaughter was caused by producers who were forced to reduce their herds due to insufficient grazing capacity,” Cornelius said.
“On many a farm, mortality figures were high and, unfortunately, many of these cullings and mortality losses were female animals, which are the reproductive animals in the herds. We are now in the post-drought period where the number of animals flowing to the markets is inadequate, causing a decline in the supply of meat against a normal demand, forcing market and retail prices upward.”
Managing director of Western Gruppe Nigel Connellan which runs 13 Spars around East London, agreed that the drought was behind the high meat prices.
“Stock farmers have had to reduce their herds due to the drought, and to build up a herd again takes many years, so it all comes down to supply and demand.
“ South Africa’s largest fresh chicken supplier has closed down most of their operation, and this has put huge pressure on existing suppliers, and hence pricing has also increased on the white meat side,” Connellan explained, adding that beef and mutton prices had increased by 18% and 25% from last year, respectively.
Connellan agreed that pork prices have remained relatively stable.
“I do not see prices coming down in the near future, however I also cannot see them increasing.”
“However, this is a very volatile market, and changes happen so quickly that no one can predict future prices on meat,” he said.
So where does a braaier buy their meat? And how much difference is there between a retailer and wholesaler?
The Daily Dispatch explored the market in East London, last week, comparing the price per kilogram of packs of lamb chops, mutton chops, pork chops and boerewors at four different supermarkets and compared these same meat cuts at four butcheries and an abattoir.
On the supermarket side, the most expensive prices ranged from R142.99/kg for lamb chops, R109.99/kg for mutton chops, R84.99/kg for pork chops to R69.99/kg for boerewors.
The cheapest supermarket prices were lamb chops at R119.99/kg, mutton chops at R99.99/kg, pork chops at R59.99/kg and boerewors at R49.99/kg.
At butcheries, the most expensive prices ranged from R139/kg for lamb chops, R139.95/kg for mutton chops,R89.95/kg for pork chops and R85/kg for boerewors.
The cheapest prices were R128/kg for lamb chops, R110/kg for mutton chops, R65/kg for pork chops and R65/kg for boerewors.
The best prices overall came from the local abattoir Claremont Abattoirs which had lamb at R95/kg, mutton chops at R80/kg, pork chops at R49.95/kg and boerewors at R70/kg.