While inflation is keeping the cost of food low overall, the drop in the number of cattle coming to market in the UK and globally means that beef is bucking the trend, says Lynx Purchasing, whose spring 2015 edition of its Market Forecast predicts a 1.2 per cent rise for beef over the next year.
Lynx managing director John Pinder said that it wasn't just prime cuts such as joints and steaks that would increase in price, but off-cuts too used for pies and burgers.
“As often happens, caterers are getting the blunt end of the price pressure that major supermarkets put on suppliers, which is an international issue and not simply confined to the UK market," he said.
“The normal effect of rising demand is for supply to increase to meet it, but in the face of retailers’ continued insistence that suppliers maintain low prices, there’s little incentive for farmers to increase beef production."
Pinder recommends chefs feature cheaper meats such as pork or fish on menus to keep prices down and customers happy, particularly as lamb prices would also be at a seasonal high for Easter.
“While customers eating out expect beef to occupy a premium slot at the top of the menu pyramid, there can’t be too big a jump between the mid-price and premium dishes on offer. We’re recommending to our customers that they look at alternatives to beef to deliver the all-important ‘wow factor’ at prices that don’t deter their customers," he said.
Creative use of beef
However Dick van Leeuwen, business development manager for EBLEX, said chefs didn't need to disregard beef to keep prices down, they just need to be more creative and consider less-popular cuts.
"The rise in prices has a lot to do with what people are buying such as the joints and steaks, but there are actually 600 cuts of beef, so if chefs are clever and do a bit of research about cuts they could pick some real winners," he said.
Van Leeuwen suggested using 'old fashioned' cuts such as shin or forerib and seeking out ways they could be cooked 'creatively'.
The news comes as a survey by OnePoll for Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) found that 55 per cent of people said a roast dinner was their top choice for an Easter Sunday meal with chicken and beef (32 and 31 per cent respectively) the top varieties.
However, a large number of respondents (41 per cent) said good value was the most important factor when choosing where to eat on Easter Sunday and most respondents said they would be looking to spend £11-£20 per person on a meal.
Chris Barber, UFS' pub expert and writer of an Easter How to Guide for Pubs, said: "Easter weekend is an excellent opportunity for pubs to attract extra diners, with added value menus, treats or activities. Pub chefs may automatically think about spring lamb for their Easter menus but it can be expensive. Our research shows chicken and beef are likely to go down just as well, but it's important to think about other ways you can entice customers and stand out from the competition."