Pork is becoming the meat of choice for Britain's cash-strapped households, after big jumps in beef and lamb prices over the past year.
Prime cuts of pork are a leanly priced £9 a kilo, less than a third of the £31 a kilo cost of beef, according to Cranswick, the major supplier to the supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury. Pork sales gained market share over the festive season, fattening year-on-year sales by 10 per cent in the last quarter.
Cranswick's finance director, Mark Bottomley, said trading down was a big factor: "For the first time over Christmas we saw some evidence [of trading down] with some retailers selling fewer turkeys and more pork. Lamb sales declined as well."
Pork prices are low relative to beef and lamb because there is far less export demand as well as a more plentiful supply. Cows and sheep have annual breeding cycles, while a sow can produce two or three litters a year.
Sales have also benefited from a publicity drive following celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's television show – Jamie Saves Our Bacon – celebrating British pork.
The meat is also finding itself on the menu of exclusive restaurants, with pork belly increasingly popular.
Cranswick's sales are expected to top £800m this year.