To say the past few months have been a challenge for the red meat industry would be "the understatement of the year" according to Rabobank's animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate.

The red meat market had experienced "huge volatility" in processing and demand due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Holgate told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

Although now lamb was "pretty much ... up to date" with processing, there was still a "slight backlog" with beef, particularly prime cattle, "more so in the South Island than the North Island" Holgate said.

However, processing delays in the US had led to a spike in domestic beef prices and therefore an increase in demand for New Zealand's "manufactured lean trimmings product".


"That has put good upward pressure on that US imported beef price over the last month or so" Holgate said.

In Rabobank's latest global Beef Quarterly report, Holgate said "in the medium term, the anticipated severe downturn in the global economy would have repercussions for beef demand".

Rabobank's animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate. Photo / Supplied
Rabobank's animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate. Photo / Supplied

This meant people could turn to cheaper sources of protein such as pork or poultry - but it was important not to rule beef out completely, Holgate said.

"What we do know is generally during tougher economic times, consumers have less purchasing power for higher cost or higher value proteins like beef [and] lamb".

"But it's important to remember ... beef [is] made up of a whole range of cuts and they're not all high-end cuts".

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This was also good news for the New Zealand market, Holgate said.

"Fortunately for New Zealand, we tend to produce a greater proportion of that manufactured cut as our lower-value cut [and] we think that's probably one that will hold up relatively well through a slowing economy".

Also in today's interview: Holgate talked about the prospect of a weakening NZ dollar and whether we're headed for a late-season lamb procurement battle.