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The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"If British meat continues to be in short supply, prices will rise."
 real 56k

Monday, 5 March, 2001, 13:24 GMT
Meat sales break records
meat sales
Gaps on the meat counters are being filled by imports
Meat sales have risen to record levels in the UK amid fears the foot-and-mouth outbreak could result in widespread shortages.

All the major supermarket chains reported an increase in red meat sales of at least 30% following restrictions placed on the movement and slaughter of livestock in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket chain, reported its "busiest meat week ever" selling 65% more lamb, 45% more beef and 35% more fish than usual.

But supermarket bosses deny that the price of meat will rise dramatically as imported goods replace British meat on the shelves.

Meat in a butcher's shop
British meat supplies are running low
Kevin Hawkins, director of communications at Safeway, told BBC News: "We will be off-setting some of the costs on our own margins so the increase will be very small indeed."

Safeway's sales of fresh pork, lamb and beef rose by 70% over the weekend.

Supermarkets will be taking delivery of new supplies of British meat as special licences brought in over the weekend begin to allow animals from uninfected areas to travel directly to abattoirs for slaughter.

"We should see meat from the new scheme coming in by midweek, which is when we are due to run out of home-reared supplies as long as demand stays as it is," Safeway spokeswoman Seema Chandarana told BBC News online.

"We will try our best to keep prices down - but if we have to import pork or lamb it will mean a 10%-15% increase in cost."

Sainsbury's has already run out of British lamb and is importing beef from the Irish Republic and pork from Denmark and Holland - but its prices remain unaffected.

"Sainsbury's will continue to keep prices low for as long as possible," spokeswoman Lindsey Muir told BBC News Online.

Man in a supermarket
Shoppers are stocking up their freezers with meat
Asda is also importing beef from the Irish Republic and lamb and pork from Holland.

Tesco is mainly importing its pork from Denmark.

As the amount of foreign meat on the shelves increases, retailers are keen to stress that all imports comply with UK standards of quality and animal welfare.

But there is some evidence that consumers are changing their shopping habits.

Somerfield said sales of pasta and rice soared by nearly 90%, and Safeway has seen an increase in poultry sales as customers filled trolleys with 80% more chicken breast fillets than usual.

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