THE upward climb of retail beef prices since 2013, which has run very much in sync with cattle prices for the past two years, came to a halt in the first part of this year.
The real story, however, has been the strength of the trade on local retail shelves against that backdrop of rising costs.
The domestic business has cemented its place as one of the highest value markets for Australian beef – many a time in 2017 it was referred to as the backbone of the job.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) data this year indicates domestic beef utilisation is now accounting for a slightly higher percentage of available production. In July it was at 30 per cent compared to where it sat in July 2016 at 25pc.
The average spend of consumers held steady as prices crept up – same spend, smaller portions is how Australians reacted.
We are actually consuming about three kilograms less beef per capita but paying the same for it.
The decline in retail prices, attributed largely to increased volumes of beef on the domestic market as export demand cooled, may start to see that trend come to a halt as well.
Although even with the slight bit of relief, beef prices are still at historic highs and, as supermarket bosses pointed out later in the year, there are a lot of pressures.
Rocketing electricity bills, and record slow wages growth, was forcing average families to trade off fresh meat and produce, according to those at the helm of Coles.
In an interesting twist, the perception that beef in Australia is expensive was laid bare in rather novel research conducted by online catering company Caterwings on the global price of basic food items.
Australia is way down at number 17 in the ranking of countries with the most expensive meat.
Our beef prices sit at just 13.5 per cent above the world average, our chicken at 44.2pc, seafood only 2pc and lamb 28.8pc. Australians have to work just 1.5 hours to afford beef. Indonesians have to work 23.6 for the same size serving.
Big butchers said the Australian consumer had taken beef for granted for a long time.