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Meat (Consumption)

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 20 February 1975

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what studies have been made in his Department regarding the increased consumption of beef in the United Kingdom and the decreased consumption of lamb and mutton; and what conclusions have been reached.

My Ministry carries out regular studies of household food consumption based on data from the National Food Survey. It also prepares annual statistics of total food supplies moving into consumption in the United Kingdom. The recent increase in beef consumption is associated with ample supplies and with changes in beef retail prices in relation to those of other meats and real incomes. Over the years, mutton and lamb consumption has probably suffered from an increased demand for manufactured meat products for which they are little used. Consumption of home produced lamb has, however, been increasing in recent years.

I appreciate that the consumption of beef has risen to a certain extent because of over supply. However, is it not important for the country that lamb and mutton consumption should be encouraged, since the inputs required for those meats are far lower than for beef?

I think that the implication of the hon. and learned Member's question is that the housewife has recognised in recent times that beef has been a very good buy. The hon. and learned Member will see that under the deal which my right hon. Friend announced on Monday the guaranteed price for sheep has been increased by 6p per pound, to 35ยท5p per pound, a 20 per cent. increase, and for wool the figure goes up by 5p per pound to 31p. This financial assistance will give added incentives, particularly to the hill farmers, about whom the hon. and learned Member is concerned.

If it is desired to increase the consumption of mutton and lamb, would it not be more sensible to remove the import duty, since there is no justification for it even though it has the support of the Liberal Party?

The import levy is a factor, but we have no reason to believe that it is a hindrance to our trade.