We see a lot of meat “deals” that seem too good to be true, and more often than not, that is EXACTLY the case. Smaller companies do not typically have the resources to have true “lost leaders”, so the question comes – how can they afford to sell it at that cost? The inevitable conclusion is there is a lack of quality in the item in question.
Let’s outline the cost of TRUE quality local beef:
- At the time of writing, a live 1200lb steer at a sale barn would cost you $1080.
- If you are buying a grass-fed natural steer, you can expect a 15% premium. Raising the cost to $1242
- So you are looking at Additional to this would be a trucking fee of $100. The new running total is $1342
- Slaughter and disposal are $150. Which will leave you with a hanging weight of around 50% or 600lbs and running total of $1492
- Cutting and wrapping in a vacuum pack is $1.50/lb carcass weight, or $900 additional. The yield will be around 70% of carcass weight (due to ageing and trimming). Leaving you with 420lbs for a total of $2392
End Result= $5.70/lb for quality local beef (all cuts included)
This is the MOST COST EFFECTIVE way you can produce this beef, and we left out lots of extras like shipping, storing and freezing costs. This is an average of ALL cuts, including round roasts and soup bones and ground beef.
So how is it possible that some retailers are able to sell a steak at $0.77/ piece (4oz)? There are several factors that can help lower the cost of the product:
- The source of the meat- Mexico has a much lower auction point for steers, and the same steer would cost $480 (at time of writing)
- Cow vs Steer. A cow is either used for breeding or is culled from a dairy herd. These are considered much lower quality and typically do not earn ANY grade.
- Feedlot beef fed a diet of corn and given a steady regiment of growth hormones and antibiotics, resulting in higher muscle mass.
- Large feedlots mass process animals to reduce production costs. These same processes have been directly linked to food poising, listeria and E-coli outbreaks.
- Wet ageing the beef to speed the ageing process and add to the net weight, resulting in more water in consumer products and tougher meat.
- Mislabeling cuts. Example: A beef tournedos steak is traditionally cut from a tenderloin piece but can easily be cut from round to reduce cost
Think about this logically; if it were possible to produce and sell local grass-fed natural, dry-aged beef for less than a retail giant like Walmart, then why wouldn’t Walmart be doing it? These are obvious selling factors, yet discount retail megastores do not stock them.
There is a cost to producing quality local meat, so the next time you are purchasing your meat ask yourself do you care for: quality, local, or safety?