Friday, December 17, 2021

Meat Don't Grow on Trees

Okay, I'm going to foray into something that isn't necessarily my bag.  It's a post Hubs should write*, but he doesn't do social media, so here goes...

Right now, live cattle is about $1.40 a pound on the commodities markets.  Now, that's a whole cow.  On a 1200 pound cow ($1680), you get about 500 pounds of meat you can get at the store.  About half of that is made into burger.  Which leaves the other half for roasts and steaks, etc.  

Now, of course, you're not going to see as low a price as a $1.40 a pound for the meat.  There are butchering costs - about 80c to a dollar a pound - and packaging and transportation. There's overhead for the seller and they have to make some kind of profit, otherwise what's the point?  

According to Hubs, twenty years ago, live cattle (or fat cattle) were 60-80c a pound.  But hey, everything's gone up, right?  Not as much as you'd think.  April of 2020 live cattle was 83c.  You know, pre-'rona and pre-Biden.  By July, it was up to 92c a pound.  A year ago (or 12/24/20), they were selling for $1.08 a pound.  

Going by their sale paper (effective 12/15-12/28), the local grocery store is selling ribeye steaks for $12.99 a pound.  Lobster is also $12.99 a pound.  Let that soak in for a moment.  Where I'm from, only rich people ate lobster, but the average joe could still afford a ribeye every once in a while.  Lobster was expensive because they don't grow on trees, ya know.  You can't just go down the road and get a lobster.  They have to be caught in the ocean and then shipped, etc.  They aren't standing in a field in middle America - or pretty much any other state.  (Florida, for instance, has a ton of cows.)  Hell, if the world suddenly went to hell and we were full blown dystopian nightmare, I could walk less than a half mile and bag myself a cow.

Now, over at the local store, you can still get 95% lean burger at a fairly reasonable price... if you buy in the 'family pack', which is too big for people with small families or small freezers.  Then it's $4.99 a pound.  But even the 80% is $3.99 a pound in the big pack.  Get the mix pack of pork and beef, it's $2.99.  

Speaking of pork, pork ribeyes are on sale for $2.99 a pound.  And that's not a family pack price.  Which brings me to a question... why the hell is pork so much cheaper?  You have basically the same supply chain issues to deal with - butchering, packaging, transportation, overhead, etc.  Pigs are smaller, so you have to deal with more pigs for the same amount of meat as you'd get off a cow.  

For comparison, lean hogs (the pig equivalent of live cattle) are 80c a pound right now.  A year ago they were 68c.  A 12c jump as opposed to the 32c jump cows took.  (Over the moon.  The little dog ain't laughing now, baby.)

I'm not sure exactly what to make of all this.  All I know is everything's gone up since last year's election.  Oh, it had gone up a little since the Kung Flu kicked the nation's ass, with help I might add, but not nearly as much as since President Feckless took office.  It's just that Hubs and I were talking about it and I thought y'all might be interested.  

*Hubs is a very good and eloquent writer.  Of course, he is, I married him, didn't I?  He just doesn't often do it for other people.  If I could show you the letter he wrote to a friend for Christmas, you'd know.  I asked, he looked at me like I'd grown a third arm out the middle of my forehead. I tried to talk him into blogging it himself, but no.  Sorry.  


  1. The Ds are blaming "Big Beef." Who knew "Big Beef" was a thing. Here's a few differences between hogs and cattle. Hogs don't need as much space--to pen or to transport. They'll eat anything, so they are cheaper to feed. One worker can care for more hogs, due to density than can care for cattle. Cattle feed is exensuve. Forget grain feed--which is through the roof. Even hay has quadrupled in price--for a variety of reasons ranging from weather to labor shortages.

    Every step of the process has been hit by higher prices. In addition, there's the problem of supply, and that doesn't necessarily mean the "supply train" as in beef to processor to store transportation. It has to do with the fact that when everything was shut down, cattle ranchers liquidated their herds for a variety of reasons--lack of labor, cost of feed, etc. You don't replace a steer overnight. Fewer cows mean fewer calves and unless you're dealing in veal, you have to wait anywhere from a year to two years (or more) to get full-grown feeder cattle suitable for market.

    Anyway. That's my persepctive from a kid who grew up in and around ranching. But yeah, it totally suckes. I'm just glad LG's bro can buy in bulk direct from the source. Cutting out all the middle steps helps the price. And yeah, that started back during Covid when the rancher had to cull his herd.

    Have a good weekend!

  2. I was told, I think by my farmer neighbor, that ranchers are getting beans for their live cattle, and stores are selling with lean profits, but that the slaughterhouses are the problem. There are four around here, but only ONE shows up at each auction. They buy low and sell high.


  3. Growers have been getting the short end of the stick for decades.

    The only way to help them and help ourselves is to buy from them directly. But that means we're back to using a local abattoir, which last I heard are backlogged by a year.