THE global shortage of cattle is making itself felt in the offal market, combining with ongoing ramped-up demand on the back of the pandemic to push prices significantly higher that year-ago levels.
Most beef co-product prices are higher than month-ago and year-ago levels, with tongue, lips, cheek and tails leading the charge, while sheep hearts have been in strong demand.
Hides, too, continue on a sharp upward rise. In some categories, the increase year-on-year is now as much a 8100 per cent, with the hide price lifting from 25 cents a piece to $20.50.
The latest Meat & Livestock Australia co-product report shows heavy Victorian hides are now making as much as $49 each.
Tick-free heavy hides from Queensland are selling for $27.50 a piece and heavy NSW hides $37, both up by more than 1000 per cent on this time last year.
All hides are now of commercial value, a long way from the zero returns some categories were showing only a year ago.
Co-product market consultant Dennis King said the hide market began to turn around in September last year and has remained on an incline all year with the upholstery and automotive sector showing strong demand as the world recovers from the pandemic.
"Hides have been a wonderful story, although there are signs the demand is easing off a bit now as leather customers push back on further price hikes," he said.
Mr King said the firm offal prices across a range of products was largely on the back of reduced supply with slaughter numbers depressed in Australia, Argentina and Brazil.
"Some of it is also seasonal-driven as we come into summer holiday period in the northern hemisphere," he said.
COVID has also been credited with driving increased demand for lower-value red meat products as food insecurities emerge.
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is bidding hard for limited stocks, with foetal calf blood firming $45 a litre year-on-year to average $460/litre, up $3/litre month-on-month.
Beef lips have jumped 65pc year-on-year, cheek meat 15pc, heart 62pc and tails 50pc.
Sheep hearts averaged $4.15 a kilogram, up 37c/kg month-on-month and 85c dearer than year-ago levels.
The vast majority of beef and sheep co-products are exported, however there has been some increase in certain products, such as beef cheeks, staying on the domestic market.
Brisbane pie maker Robert Latimer uses lamb heart and liver to make haggis, and says generally speaking customers have been willing to pay more for what is a niche, boutique product.
"We haven't seen a massive hike in offal prices yet. Given we buy a range of meat products for our pies, wholesalers have been able to offset higher offal prices for us," he said.
His shop, Syd's Pies, sells 50kgs of haggis a week on average, sourcing offal from NSW processors Fletchers International at Dubbo and Thomas Foods International at Tamworth.
Haggis is typically simmered underwater, or baked in foil. Mr Latimer believes there is probably demand for more haggis domestically, saying he was 'flat out' supplying just those who come into his shop.
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