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UK Beef

Modest easing in the prime cattle trade

Through February so far the prime cattle trade has been relatively finely balanced, with small changes in available supplies having an impact on prices offered by processors. The anticipated first quarter slowdown in consumer demand could be just starting to take the edge off trade and act as a barrier to any upwards pressure on price, particularly for more commercial cattle. Reports suggest that the trade for cattle meeting supermarket specification or particular schemes has remained buoyant but that some buyers have been more selective. In week ended 21 February, the overall GB prime cattle average price was back 4p over the past three weeks to 359.8p/kg. While steers also came back 4p to average 361.2p/kg, heifers were down 5p at 362.4p/ kg and young bulls averaged 3p lower than at end of January at 327.3p/kg.

Uplift in steer numbers slows down

UK prime cattle slaughterings in January were up just 1% on the year at 182,300 head. Higher steer throughputs in all regions of the UK continued to drive the year-on-year increase, although heifer numbers were also above year earlier levels in Northern Ireland. While steer throughputs are still tracking significantly above year earlier levels, the year-on-year uplift has appeared to slow. In England and Wales, the year-on-year increase was just 5%; this represents the first sub-10% increase since September last year. For another month, young bull throughputs were significantly back on the year as the impact of increased castrations continues to have a bearing on the overall slaughter mix. Overall, adult cattle throughputs were up across all the regions of the UK. While trade has continued to be firm, especially for cows of beef origin, it is possible that the challenges in the dairy sector could, for another month, have led to an increase in the number of cows coming forward. While it may be a little early to ascertain a realistic picture of developments, reports are starting to suggest that more cows are likely to be marketed over the coming months, especially if demand stays firm and prices robust.

Global Snapshot

•       US Cattle numbers in tight supply, prices strong

•       Brazil Feb sees a slow start for exports of beef

•       Uruguay Sustained growth in Feb of 4.5%

•       Argentina confident in working with China

•       Russia Miratorg set to supply McDonalds

•       Paraguay Increased availability puts downward pressure on prices

UK Lamb

Lamb trade holding firm

With prices continuing to track close to last year’s position, the lamb trade has continued to demonstrate a moderate degree of positivity over the past few weeks. In week ended 21 February, at GB auction marts, the SQQ levelled at 189.5p/kg. Since the turn of the year the SQQ has moved within a narrow range of 185p to 192p/kg as the trade appears to be finely balanced, with only small changes in throughputs having an effect on prices. Despite more cull ewes coming forward in February so far, the cull ewe market at auction is also continuing its robust performance. The average value in week

ended 21 February was around £75 per head. This represented the fourth consecutive week that ewes have traded around this level, consistently £20-£25 per head ahead of the same period last year.

Increased supplies forecast for 2015

The final UK figures from the 2014 June census confirm that last year’s lamb crop was the largest since 2006. As a result, lamb slaughterings for the first seven months of the season (June 2014-January 2015) have increased by around 5%. On the flip side, adult ewe and ram cullings have been sharply down on 2013’s inflated levels. Therefore, sheep meat production only rose by 3% last year. Looking ahead, the breeding flock is expected to have shown a small increase, continuing the recent trend, although figures aren’t published by Defra until next month. With ewe slaughterings well down, it seems that fewer ewe lambs will have been retained for breeding. Prospects for this year’s lamb crop currently look reasonable, although anecdotal reports suggest that scanning results are mixed. There is also still time for weather conditions or other factors to reduce numbers, so the lamb crop for the 2015/16 season is currently forecast to be little changed, despite the bigger flock. With the lamb crop estimates suggesting a large carryover into the start of 2015, slaughterings in the early part of the year are expected to remain well above last year’s levels. The earlier Easter will also pull forward any lambs being aimed at that market into the first quarter. As we move towards the switch over between seasons, growth in throughputs is likely to slow relative to last year. Carcase weights are expected to remain high for the remainder of the current season but are then expected to return to more typical levels. With a slightly larger and older breeding flock, adult sheep slaughterings are forecast to pick up again in 2015, although not to the inflated levels of 2013. These changes mean that UK sheep meat production is forecast to rise by 4% for 2015 as a whole, with the sharpest rise in the early part of the year, taking production to its highest level since 2008.


The EU-spec GB APP in January followed a similar trend, falling 3.57p per kg on the month to 144.06p per kg. Again, this has in part been affected by high post- Christmas throughputs, as well as following the downward pressure on price evident to producers throughout the EU. The price differential between the APP and the SPP narrowed in January to 3.36p per kg, the smallest gap since September as the premium market has apparently increasingly come under the same pressures as the standard market. Prices are beginning to show some positivity, which could encourage a higher kill in the coming months. Throughout 2014, the UK imported more pork, bacon, processed pig meat and sausages than in 2013. However, in spite of the unprecedented gap between UK and EU prices, the rise was modest. Pork imports rose by 2% on the year with prices down 7% on 2013. With an increased share of pork remaining in the EU, as product was diverted from Russia throughout the year, Denmark supplied over a quarter of the total. Belgium, France and Spain also increased their shipments. For Poland trade more than doubled despite potential ASF fears. German and Dutch trade, however, was down on the year. Denmark was also the main supplier of bacon in 2014, and its trade was up 11% on the year, whereas Dutch shipments dropped by 5%. The average import price was 9% lower. Sausage imports increased the most on the year but still by only 4%, with a notable rise from Ireland. This made it the second largest supplier, while it remained the largest for other processed products, despite a 5% decrease in this category on the year.

Prices set to increase on YOY trend

The EU finished pig reference price dropped over €2 per 100kg through January. At week ended 25 January, the price was €129.19 per 100kg, over €30 down on the year. However, in the following three weeks the price increased by around six euros to €135.16 per 100kg, the first rises since the start of August. The normal seasonal trend is for rising prices after a short New Year slowdown and this appears to be the case this year. The recent depreciation of the euro against the pound means the decrease equated to 6p/kg throughout January and the subsequent recovery has added less than 3p. These changes mean the gap between UK and EU prices remains high, at 34p (45 cents).


UK Poultry statistics (DEFRA)

·         UK commercial layer chick placings were down 19% to 3 million chicks.

·         UK broiler chick placings were up 0.8% at 90.9 million chicks.

·         The number of turkey chick placings were up 13% at 1.3 million chicks.

·         Turkey slaughterings were down 2.4% at 1.9 million birds.

·         UK broiler slaughterings were 1.1% lower at 84 million birds.

  Total UK poultry meat production was 150.8 thousand tonnes, down 7.6%  

Download the March/April Report 2015 as a PDF file

UK Beef

Cattle price stedies

Cattle price steadies Cattle trade steadied with prices for prime cattle and cows edging upon the week earlier. Sluggish demand during the holiday season has had an impact on processor requirements and there is no doubt this was responsible for taking some of the edge off the trade. However, in week ended 22 August the prime trade showed an early sign of stability with the GB prime cattle average price up 2p on the week earlier at 345.1p/kg.
This halted the declining prices of the previous four weeks. Weekly throughputs of prime cattle were back by 2,000 head compared to the middle of July.
This has been partially offset by an increase in cow slaughterings during the same period, probably largely attributable to the difficulties in the dairy sector. This increase in slaughterings appears to be having an impact on processor demand for cows though, with cow prices down by 30p/kg in the last four weeks. Going forward, further increases in throughputs of cows could have an impact on prime cattle prices in the absence of a significant change in demand.

Across the water in Ireland the situation appears to be similar, with steer and heifer prices both back by as much as 25c/kg in the last three weeks, despite throughputs for the year to date being down four per cent compared to the same period last year. The current weakening in prices is attributed to softer market conditions internationally. Revenues from fifth quarter/offal products are reportedly coming under increased pressure in recent weeks, which is attributed to the Chinese economy slowing down. This is cited as one of the main reasons for the fall in Irish cattle prices, which may fall below €4/kg in the coming weeks. According to Bord Bia, the value of hides has fallen by 50 per cent in the last 12 months.

Global Snapshot

  • USA; Meat exports decline in first half 2015 (-5%Pork/-10% Beef/-13%Lamb)
  • Brazil; US lobby to halt arrival of Brazilian beef
  • Uruguay;To start shipments of beef to US
  • Russia; Suspends 3 Paraguayan meat packers

UK Lamb

Further falls seen in the Lamb Trade

LambaugThe GB live weight lamb trade fell further in week ended 26 August, although the falls were not as sharp as those seen in previous weeks. The GB SQQ was down by 2p on the week earlier at 143.7p/kg, despite a fall in the number of lambs coming to the market. This increases the difference, compared to the same period in 2014 to 21p. However, prices towards the end of the week increased for the first time since No Lamb Week, with those on Wednesday 26 August

being 144.8p/kg –up 3p on the week. The number of lambs coming to GB markets fell by three per cent on the week as producers appear to be continuing to hold on to lambs, possibly waiting for better prices. However, throughputs at markets were up by seven per cent compared to numbers seen a year earlier. The percentage of lambs falling within the SQQ weight band continued to fall, standing at 70 per cent during the week. In the week ended 22 August the deadweight market began following the liveweight market again, after moving in the opposite direction in the previous week. The dw SQQ fell by 6p on the week to 335.3p/kg, as numbers were up by seven per cent. This led the difference compared to the same week in 2014 to increase to 41p/kg

Deadweight prices were also down in the week ended 18 July but falls continued to be on a smaller scale than the liveweight trade. The deadweight SQQ fell by less than 2p to 345p/kg as the difference compared to last year continued to narrow to less than 50p following sharper falls in the equivalent week in 2014. This is the lowest price since February 2013 and the lowest level seen in July since 2009.

New Zealand Prices remain well below year earlier levels 

In New Zealand, lamb prices have been well below year earlier levels since the beginning of the year, mirroring the situation in the UK. Lamb prices in New Zealand follow a similar seasonal pattern to that seen in the UK, with prices rising throughout their winter and spring, before falling in their summer and autumn. However, sharper than normal falls were seen last November, which led prices by the end of the year to fall to the lower levels seen in 2013. This fall was due to the drought conditions which lead producers into mark eting their lambs earlier than normal, increasing supplies. Prices have continued to decline in 2015 so far, as supplies have remained at high levels, leaving them well below both the year earlier level and the five year average.


UK pig prices

The strong growth of UK pig meat production continued in June, with output at 68,500 tonnes, up by 6% compared with 

a year earlier. This was the 22nd

The GB SPP stayed virtually the same in week ended 15 August, with the EU – spec price standing at 132.57p/kg, a 0.01p fall on the previous week. The market still remains balanced, although we are nearing the end of the holiday season, which may tip the balance towards a higher demand. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any significant shift will be apparent before mid - September, given the upcoming Bank Holiday. Even though the price has stayed the same as the previous week, there has been a 26p decrease in price compared to a year before, although the gap continues to close in. Slaughterings were estimated to have increased by just over 4% compared to the previous week, to 176,600 head. This is the highest number since mid - July and 7% more year on year. Carcase weights were slightly down compared to a week prior, averaging 80.21kg in the latest week, but were still 200g up on the same week last year. In the week ending 8 August the APP EU - spec price fell for the second consecutive week, to 137.03p/kg. The drop during the week was only just over a tenth of a penny but there was a 25p fall on the price in the same week a year earlier. As the fall in the APP was greater than the SPP, the gap between the two prices has increased slightly compared to the previous week, to 4.45p.


UK Poultry Statistics

July 2015 in comparison to July 2014 DEFRA

UK commercial layer chick placings were up 37% to 4.1 million chicks.

UK broiler chick placings were up 4.2% at 94.9 million chicks.

Turkey chick placings were up 1.5% at 2.4 million chicks.

Turkey slaughterings were up 0.6% at 1.2 million birds.

UK broiler slaughterings were 3.7% higher at 91.9 million birds.

Total UK poultry meat production was 159.7 thousand tonnes, up 1.6%.

Feed market update

UK Nov -15 wheat futures moved little Tuesday to Tuesday, closing up £1 at £115/t. Despite a variety of demand -led stories filtering through the international grain markets last week, the pure weight of global supply expectations kept wheat prices subdued. News of strong US weekly export sales lifted grain prices but this was only short lived. After the falls in the
Chinese stock market, UK wheat futures initially dropped rapidly on fears of weaker Chinese demand. However, this was offset bythe euro strengthening against sterling. With the UK wheat harvest progressing, delivered feed wheat prices have become cheaper relative to imported maize in recent weeks, potentially favouring the use of wheat over maize in rations.

Soya meal prices (Brazilian, 48%, ex-store Liverpool, spot delivery) moved little on the week, up only £1 to £284/t on Friday. In contrast, rape meal prices (34%, ex-mill, Erith) dropped £7 to £172/t over the same period. On the whole, snippets of price supporting news did not outweigh the downward pressure on the market. Global supply expectations remain high and rainfall in the US was generally beneficial to the soyabean crop there. Oilseed prices received a short-term boost on Thursday, when weekly USDA export sales data were above expectations. However, as with maize, total new crop soyabean sales are still behind last year’s pace. Contrastingly, in Brazil, there has been a substantial increase in the number of ships lined up at ports compared to this time last year.

Download the September Report 2015 as a PDF file


UK Beef

Welcome stability in the prime cattle trade

beefBourguignonne pwm

Despite the supply/demand balance remaining very narrow, in week ended 23 May the deadweight cattle trade edged up in some areas. At 325.2p/kg the GB all prime average was a fraction up on the week, which brought to an end the consistent trend of falling prices which have dominated the trade so far this year. With slaughterings estimated to be back around 2,200 head on the week earlier, the effect of tightening domestic supplies has just tipped the balance into producers’ favour. In addition to the domestic situation, supplies in Ireland have been starting to show some signs of slowing up in recent weeks. In the latest week, prime cattle supplies at Irish export meat plants stood at around 20,500 head, their lowest weekly level all year and some 15% behind supplies in the same week in 2014.

With steer numbers estimated to be back to the greatest degree, average steer values levelled, while the R4L average increased 2p on the week to 337.2p.kg, demonstrating better demand for ‘in spec’ cattle. Heifers meeting the target specification came back a penny to 333.9p/kg, while R3 young bulls were 2p dearer on the week at 316.1p/kg. Looking ahead, it remains to be seen whether this latest development will mark the low point in the trade.

Global Snapshot

• Brazil; Beef Exports fall 10%
• Russian; Markets firm on improved demand

• New Zealand; Reports sheep flock numbers lowest since 1943 
1982 herd NZ had 22 sheep per person @ 70.3m sheep today this is now down to an estimated 6 sheep per person
• EU; Pork exports increase by 19% on sales to China, south Korea & Japan
• Australia; Grain Fed Cattle 13% up in first quarter YOY to 2.7m head

UK Lamb

Lamb prices continue to decline

New season lamb prices at GB auction markets have continued to fall in the past week. In the week ended 27 May the NSL SQQ was back over 9p at 184.7p/kg. However, prices have shown more stability in recent days, with the SQQ on Wednesday 27 May up 3p on the week at 185.2p/kg. This leaves prices almost 56p/kg lower than in the same week in 2014, despite numbers being lower. Throughputs continued to increase as the season progresses, but were only up by 2% on the previous week due to the reduced trading following the Bank Holiday. Expectations of high supplies later in the year are thought to be reducing the effects of current slightly reduced numbers and leading to prices continuing to fall. Throughputs of old season lambs coming forward are continuing to fall as numbers dry up – numbers in the past week were half those of the previous week. The OSL SQQ fell by over 18p on the week to 149.4p/kg, 51p back year on year. The deadw eight trade has followed the liveweight market and fell in the latest week. The overall NSL SQQ in week ended 23 May was down by 5p on the week earlier to 421.3p/kg. This means prices are now over £1 per kilo lower than those seen around the same time in 2014.

Imports from New Zealand surge.  

According to the latest figures from HMRC, imports of sheep meat to the UK continued to increase in March and were up by over a third on levels seen in 2014, at 15,200 tonnes. The largest increase came from New Zealand, with imports up by over 50% to 12,800 tonnes. This is a continuing result of the high slaughterings following the drought in New Zealand and the weak levels of demand for sheep meat shown by China so far in 2015. Some of this increase continues to be offset by lower imports from both Australia and Ireland, down 11% and 47% respectively. In value terms, increased average unit prices led to a 45% increase in the total value of imports, to £72 million. There is concern that the export data for March again does not show the true picture, with exports reported to be down 23% on the year at 6,500 tonnes, even though Easter was earlier this year. It includes a 15% decrease in exports to France.  


UK pig prices

Pig prices have remained low but stable over the last two months, although given that they would normally be rising seasonally at this time of year, this doesn’t necessarily indicate a turning point for the market. The EU-spec GB APP averaged 136.02p/kg in April, less than a penny down on the previous month but 29p lower than in April 2014. The average price fluctuated during the month but without any clear trend. The gap between EU and UK prices has narrowed somewhat but still remains at around 25p/ kg, very high by historical standards.
This is contributing to the subdued domestic prices, along with relatively plentiful supplies. With little having changed in early May, the APP stood at 135.72p/kg for week ended 9 May. The SPP followed a similar trend to the APP, although the gap between them rose further. The April average EU-spec SPP of 132.07p/kg was 31p down on a year earlier but less than a penny lower than in March. Further slight falls in early May took the SPP to 131.44p/kg for week ended 16 May.

EU pig prices

Since the beginning of March, the EU average pig reference price has fluctuated between €140 and €147 per 100kg but with no clear trend. The price rose through much of April, increasing from around €141 per 100kg at the end of March to €147 four weeks later. However, prices then fell back in early May, losing all of the ground gained during April. In the latest week, ended 17 May, the price stabilised to stand at €140.75 per 100kg, €22 lower than a year earlier.

Pork exports from the EU during March were up 19% on a year earlier, at 139,000 tonnes. While shipments in March 2014 were down in the wake of the Russian ban, the latest figure is also higher than the same month in earlier years. Indeed, it is the highest March figure in records back to 2002. As in most recent months, strong sales to Asia and Oceania have driven the increase, with China, South Korea and Australia among the major growth markets. The weak euro has ensured that EU pork remains competitive on these markets as demand strengthens. This means that, although prices were 19% lower in US dollar terms (the dollar being the currency of international trade), they were actually 4% up in euros. That meant that the value of exports rose by nearly a quarter year on year, to €319 million.


Chicken prices remain static, in the main this is due to the feed costs & harvests being level with no adverse weather conditions having affected the last couple of seasons internationally, this is measured by the CBOT market prices with feed costs representing over 60% of the growing cost of poultry, however with poultry seen as a key BBQ commodity the recent good weather will begin to add pressure to the supply of thighs, Legs, Wings, drumsticks and breast meat for kebabs.

Download Market Report June 2015 



UK Beef

Positive pricing as beef supply tightens

The prime cattle trade has seen more upwards movement for another week. In week ended 20 June, despite numbers coming forward estimated to have cowsincreased on the week earlier, the all prime average was still up 5p at 337.7p/kg. This further uplift reflects a more positive trading environment in which the all prime average has strengthened by more than 12p/kg over the past three weeks. This price rise has evidently come as supplies fall short of retail demand and confirms the predictions made a short while ago. With the balance in the trade so fine it would not take much stimulus from either side of the equation to move the trade into a position less out of kilter fairly quickly.

With the supply and demand balance having swung in producers’ favour, competition from processors is reported to have been solid. As such, waiting lists have evaporated and while cattle ‘out of spec’ may have proved trickier to place, they have still found a home easily. On average R4L steer values were up 4p on the week at 347.3p/kg. Heifers meeting target moved up 5p to average 346.1p/kg. R3 young bulls were 6p dearer on the week at 331.3p/kg, they have increased 16p/kg.

The outlook for the summer continues to appear positive on the back of the tightening supply situation. While there is still the risk that this could be tempered by the on-going strength of sterling against the euro, which would still mean imports from other member states are competitive, it looks likely that producers will be in a much stronger negotiating position. With the summer supply gap already influencing the market, producers are looking for the right buyers, holding onto cattle where they can in order to maximize returns amid the rising market.

Global Snapshot

  • Brazil; First 5 months live cattle sales down 74% YOY
  • Uruguay; Finished cattle prices remain firm
  • Argentina; Month on month exports up 3.7% but prices set to increase on reduced export numbers
  • N America; Live cattle prices see small decrease
  • New Zealand; Lamb exports continue to slow with shipments 14% lower than a year ago
  • Asia; South Korea, Japan, Vietnam & Philippines are estimated to increase imports in 2015 by 60% from 2010
  • China & Japan; Demographic change forecasts population growth slowdown to 2% & decline by 25% from present to year 2050 retrospectively.

UK Lamb

Sharp falls seen in live weight Lamb trade

New season lamb live weight prices have seen sharper falls in the past week, following a decline in the previous lambsseven days, despite tighter supplies at GB

auction markets. In the week ended 24 June the NSL SQQ fell to 170.7p/kg, over 17p lower than the previous week. The daily average price on Wednesday 24 June was as low as  160.2p/kg, almost 19p down on the week earlier. This left the current weekly price over 42p lower than the same week in 2014 when prices were not falling as rapidly. This is the lowest June value for the new season trade since 2010. Supplies remain at a high level amid some challenging trading conditions, while the pound continues to strengthen. These falls come despite numbers of lambs coming to market being well below numbers last week. Numbers in the past week were back 15% on the previous seven days, suggesting the falling prices have put producers off bringing lambs forward. However, throughputs do still remain above levels seen in 2014, for the second week in a row. With numbers up by over one per cent on the week, it shows how good the lamb crop has been this year.

In week ended 20 June, despite falls seen in the live weight market, the deadweight trade strengthened for the third week in a row. The NSL SQQ increased by over 3p on the week to reach 411.4p/kg, reducing the gap compared to 2014 to less than a pound for the first time since mid-May.

New Zealand Sheep Exports Fall 

Sheep meat production in New Zealand in April was unchanged, compared to a year earlier although export volumes were well down. This included a fall in trade with the United Kingdom to its lowest April level for at least 25 years. This would suggest that the pressure on the UK market from high supplies of New Zealand lamb should ease. Following two months of sharp declines, lamb slaughter in New Zealand increased two per cent on the year to 2.2 million head in April. Supplies of lambs have held up better than anticipated, leading to higher numbers coming to market now, with much of this increase coming from the North Island. However, a fall in the average carcase weight led total lamb production to increase by only one per cent to 39,600 tonnes. Taking account of the monthly developments, the overall number of lambs slaughtered in the first four months of the year was level with the same period in 2014, at 10.5 million head. However, the consistently lower carcase weights so far this year have resulted in an overall two per cent decline in lamb production volumes to 183,900 tonnes.


UK pig prices increase

UK finished pig prices increased for the fourth week in a row, with the largest single gain in over a year. In the week ended 20 June the EU-spec SPP was pigsup by almost half a penny at 132.38p/kg, to the highest level since the end of March. Supplies continued to tighten even though demand will have been affected by the continuing lack of summer weather. The SPP was 31p lower than in 2014 although this difference has narrowed in recent weeks as prices at this time last year were falling. Estimated slaughterings were down 2% both on the week and on the same period in 2014, while carcase weights fell to their lowest level since December. However they were over a kilo heavier than the same week in 2014. With carcase weight falling it would be expected that the average probe measurement would also fall but it actually increased to 11.2mm.

Latest figures from Defra show that the strong growth in UK pig meat production continued in May, with output over 5% higher than a year earlier at 66,700 tonnes. At 789,400 head, the UK clean pig kill was also up by 5%, in line with the trend in most recent months. The year-on-year growth in slaughterings was similar across all parts of the UK, with Scotland and Northern Ireland also recording a 5% uplift. Although these figures add weight to the view that census results showing a declining breeding herd may have been pessimistic, they also confirm that the productivity of the UK’s sows continues to improve.

Danish exports increase in early 2015
In the first three months of 2015, Danish exports of pork increased by 6% year on year to 292,000 tonnes but the total value fell by 5% to DKK4.3 billion (€580 million). Intra-EU trade increased its share of the total and other EU countries remained the largest market for Danish exports, with 74% of all shipments from Denmark going to them. Germany was the largest single market for Danish pork but its share of the total fell to 32% as volumes grew more slowly than other countries. Shipments to the next three markets, Poland, Italy and the UK, grew by 12%, 20% and 19% respectively. Exports to non-EU markets increased by 1% despite a decline in volumes going to the largest such market, Japan, where shipments fell by 21% compared to 2014. The main increase in purchases came from Australia, with volumes up 60% year on year, and smaller Asian markets such as South Korea and Taiwan. Shipments to China fell by 4%.

Turkey prices remain firm with the seasonal increase set to arrive as stocks are laid down for Christmas.

Chicken prices remain firm with poultry seen as a key BBQ commodity adding pressure for supply of thigh / wings / drumsticks and breast meat for kebabs & summer eating.

One of the most versatile of protein’s poultry meat is easy to pre-pair and cook, low in fat and can lend itself to almost any flavour or coating. 


Download July 2015 Market Report