Consumers in the UK spent more money on beef over the past year, but the volume of sales was also down, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission in Northern Ireland (LMC).

It says expenditure on beef in the UK totalled £2.1 billion in the year ending May 25, 2014, a 2% increase on the previous 52-week period according to the latest consumer data from Kantar.

The increase in expenditure on beef has occurred despite a 5% contraction in the volume of UK sales and has been driven by an increase in the average retail price. The average retail price for beef during the 52 weeks ending May 25, 2014, was £7.65, an 8% increase on the previous 52-week period.

Meanwhile the LMC also notes that household penetration has remained almost unchanged at 85.5% during the period under analysis while the volume purchased per household was back 5% to 12.2kg.

“This would indicate that while similar numbers of consumers are buying beef they are buying it in smaller volumes with the increased retail price likely to be the key driver behind this trend.”

During the 52-week period ending May 25, 2014 all the major cuts of beef recorded volume declines in sales. Sales of mince and beef frying steaks were back by 1.6% and 2.2% respectively compared to year earlier levels.

Meanwhile sales of the larger and more expensive roasting joints showed a more marked decline, back by 8.5% with volume sales of beef stewing pieces back 14% year on year.

On a positive note the LMC also outlines that in the shorter term volume beef sales have shown some signs of improvement. In the four-week period ending May 25, 2014 volume sales of beef were 3% higher than the corresponding period in 2013. It says this was primarily due to increases in the volume sales of beef mince (+9.4%) and beef frying/grilling steaks (+9.1%). However the sales of roasting joints have continued to decline with volume sales in the four week period ending May 25, 2014 back 16.4% on year earlier levels.

The average retail price of beef during the four week period ending May 25, 2014 was £7.42, 1% higher than year earlier levels. This increase in the retail price combined with the 3% increase in volume sales has resulted in a four per cent increase in total expenditure on beef during the four-week period ending May 25, 2014 to £150 million.