Meat prices

Meat prices

Insight on meat prices in South Africa

Do you wonder why that juicy piece of fillet you had at your last dinner was so expensive compared to the tenderised steak? In this article, we take a look at some of the factors that determine meat prices.

What determines the price of meat?

As with most things there are many factors, however here are some key points we would like to share.

Meat supply and consumer demand

Generally speaking, one can get about 63% meat from one cattle. Whereas only about 15% of that steer is considered as preferred cuts. Although the carcass can be used for multiple consumption methods, this still places a demand on the more popular cuts. One has to consider that you can only cut about 5-10 tenderloin steaks out of one steer and therefore you would need a few cattle to supply the demand.

Grade / Class

Should the demand increase on one of the classes, the demand on the other classes will naturally decrease. A-grade meat will naturally be more expensive than class B or C meat. The age of the animal is the main determining factor used to determine class in South Africa.

A-grade meat comes from young cattle, therefore farmers have to produce a larger amount of young cattle and use the correct type of feed and methods to achieve the correct grade of meat in the fastest possible time. With that in mind, Grade-A meat is tender and juicy and for that reason, it is more expensive.

Cut

  1. Type of cut
    The area of the steer where the meat is cut from plays an essential part in determining the price of meat. It is also interesting to note that the best cuts come from the same area of the cattle. These are the T-bones, porterhouses, rib eyes and fillet mignon.

    These mentioned pieces are cut from the middle part of the cattle, where there are little working muscles and thus result in a tender piece of meat. The thicker the cut, the more expensive it will be, especially for these signature pieces.

    Similarly, the leaner and more tender cuts of chicken are more expensive than the one with bones. For example, chicken fillet or chicken breast is the most expensive cut, whereas chicken feet are on the opposite spectrum of the price scale.
  2. Location in body – size of muscle
    The size of the cut of meat is a big factor when determining the price of meat. Basically, there are smaller pieces, which makes it more expensive. For example, fillet mignon is one of the smallest muscles and hence has a lower supply than other cuts. Combine that with its tenderness, and it makes it one of the most expensive pieces of meat.

Marbling

Marbling in meat refers to the fat particles dispersed throughout the cut of meat. The more marbling, the more tender the meat and the more expensive the cut of meat. A basic rule of thumb is that the tougher the cut, the less you will pay for it.

Meat prices in South Africa

What are some cheaper cuts of meat?

As mentioned above, the smaller the area where the meat is cut from, the more expensive it will be. Cuts that are situated in larger areas of the animal are normally less expensive. Cheaper cuts of beef include mince, chuck, blade, and brisket.

A less expensive cut of lamb are the shoulder, neck, chump and lamb breast. Although they are not your most popular cuts, when prepared well, these cuts impart a fantastic flavour into your dish.

Some of the more budget friendly chicken cuts include chicken leg quarters, whole chicken and drumsticks. If you are in the mood for pork, but your wallet is not, you can try the pork belly, shoulder or gigot. Then there is offal; cheaper on cost but definitely an acquired taste.

Some prices of beef cuts

Mince is most likely one of the least profitable cuts of meat, since it is generally made from the ‘not-so-popular’ cuts of meat. About 38% to 50% of the cattle can be used to make mince. For this reason, mince has a high supply and is not as expensive as a tenderloin steak for example.

The beef chuck comes from the shoulder of the steer and is the largest single primal cut of the cattle. Many cuts can be derived from the chuck and is also a tough cut of meat due to all the connective tissue. With that in mind, chuck is generally seen as a less expensive beef cut.

Price of lamb in South Africa

Did you know that lamb is the most expensive type of meat consumed in South Africa? This is due to the fact that there is less meat per animal, than a cow, as it is smaller. It is also not as widely farmed as cattle, and has a high running cost per livestock.

One of the other factors that further affects the price of lamb is spending habits of consumers. Consumers are more likely to spend money on meat during certain parts of the year, such as: holidays, special occasions like festive seasons, bonus pay-outs from their workplace and so on.

The occurrence of a drought can easily cause price fluctuations, as there is a strain on supply in those seasons. The upkeep of the livestock will also be a determining factor. The type of feed that is required, the upkeep etc, can all play a role in the price of lamb.

While this only scratches the surface of factors that play a role in determining meat prices in South Africa, there are many other factors that cause meat prices to fluctuate.

Why is fillet mignon so expensive?

Fillet mignon is one of the smallest muscles and hence has a lower supply than other cuts. Combine that with its tenderness, and it makes it one of the most expensive pieces of meat.

What are some of the least expensive cuts of meat?

As mentioned above, the smaller the area where the meat is cut from, the more expensive it will be. Cuts that are situated in larger areas of the animal are normally less expensive. Cheaper cuts of beef include mince, chuck, blade, and brisket.

A less expensive cut of lamb are the shoulder, neck, chump and lamb breast. Although they are not your most popular cuts, when prepared well, these cuts impart a fantastic flavour into your dish.

Some of the more budget friendly chicken cuts include chicken leg quarters, whole chicken and drumsticks.

If you are in the mood for pork, but your wallet is not, you can try the pork belly, shoulder or gigot. Then there is offal; cheaper on cost but definitely an acquired taste.

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