Farmers’ share of the retail price in the UK has, in the past year, fallen from 62% to less than 48%.

Latest figures from the Scottish National Farmers Union show that the average price for beef on shop shelves sat at 557p (694c) per kilo at the start of 2010 and has risen steadily to 709p (884c) per kg in July of this year.

NFU Scotland says its members share of the retail price of beef is now at its lowest level for almost five years. Farmgate prices for beef cattle hit record levels in November last year but have tumbled dramatically by almost £250 (€311) per head in the past eight months. It says current price levels means that those currently finishing cattle for the market are likely to be struggling to break even.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “For the primary producer to receive less than half the retail value of beef is totally unacceptable given the amount of time, cost and risk taken on by beef farmers in getting this premium product to market.

“From conception to being ready for the market, a beef animal’s journey can take over three years. Compare that lengthy commitment with the meat maturing for three to four weeks in an abattoir and then spending two or three days on a shop shelf.

“It was inevitable that farmgate prices would adjust from the historic highs seen just under a year ago but we have concerns that the price correction is now being exploited by retailers – using lower prices for cattle and higher retail prices to consumers to squeeze more margin out of the market for themselves.”