Inflation, cuts of meat, and cooking methods

VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

We continue to expand our garden and garden preserving methods. However, we will never be raising our own meat animals, nor will we become vegetarians.

I'm sure some of you are in a similar position.

Given the significant food inflation we are already seeing, I have begun exploring ways to make meat dishes cheaper. I've just ordered a pressure cooker, and bought a couple of inexpensive pressure cooker recipe books at the local library book sale.

One of the benefits that slow cooker and pressure cooker books have always touted is that they let you tenderize tougher cuts of meat, which are supposedly cheaper.

Here's the"meat" of this post: looking at prices at my local grocery store doesn't show a clear pattern of the more muscular, less tender cuts being cheaper. Is this true in your own stores?

Here are a few recent examples.

- beef chuck boneless shoulder roast $4/lb

- beef boneless shoulder steak $4.30/lb

- beef shoulder London broil steak $4.50/lb

- Angus beef sirloin tip roast $5/lb

- boneless stewing beef $5/lb

- whole beef top round $5.50/lb

- beef bottom round pot roast $6/lb

- flat cut beef brisket $13/lb

The exact prices aren't important. They change frequently and will different across regions and countries. It's the pattern that has me puzzled.

Cookbooks describe brisket as though it were a cheaper, tougher cut that needs long, slow cooking or pressure cooking to tenderize it. But it's one of the most expensive meats in my grocery store.

Angus beef sirloin steak is the same price as stewing beef. Isn't stewing beef supposed to be made from cheaper cuts than sirloin or London broil?

One other thing comes through clearly. Pig meats are much cheaper than beef, almost regardless of the cut chosen. A wide range of pork meats are available for $2/lb or less. Maybe this is because there is little waste when processing pugs, "everything but the squeal" is used?

These prices are for conventional grocery store meat. Organic would be higher, if available at all.

What are you seeing in terms of meat prices, and how do you select affordable cuts to purchase?


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    My husband and I were in town the other day and I insisted he come in the butcher shop with me. He usually waits in the car. It had the desired effect. He was absolutely gobsmacked at the price of beef. They even had a couple of cuts of wagu beef to really impress his pocketbook.

    We buy our meat by the side. Our pork is purchased from a local (kind of) Hutterite colony. Chickens are bought in bulk. We have been on a list with a local bison ranch for the last 10 years and split a whole animal with a friend. The sides run about 200-225 lbs and we pay $5.50/lb for the meat and $.80/lb to have it cut and wrapped. That is in Canadian funds. The bison is excellent meat so even the less than prime cuts are still quite tender.

    If we didn't buy our meat this way we would be eating a lot more meatless meals.

    Buying sides gives us some of those less than tender cuts. I have a wood stove so I can slow cook a lot of cheaper cuts in the winter but I have a slow cooker, too, to use in the warmer months. I have learned to be created with pork hocks and they have become a favourite in our house. Short ribs, too.

    Buying sides gives you an appreciation of the animal as well. You are eating all parts of it. Not just steaks or wings or chops but all the animal.

    This won't work for a lot of people cause they don't have the storage space or access to purchasing larger quantities but that could be shared by two or more families to make it easier to cope with. Our bison supplier let us know that there was an extra side available this year so two of my neighbours are going to share the cost on that.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey That sounds like a wonderful idea, but it wouldn't work for me, and probably not for most people even in rural areas. We'd never be able to handle, preserve, or freeze that much.

    You are lucky to have access to your local agricultural colony and ranch, and space to store so much.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    @VermontCathy I realize that it won't work for everyone, particularly people who live in apartments or smaller city homes. Freezers do take up space.

    The side isn't really all that much. The bison comes in 5 boxes which maybe half fills my 20 cubic foot freezer. A side of pork fits in two large boxes. Most people I know have at least one freezer; some like me have several. But even if you don't have that much freezer space, buying in bulk with neighbours is a good way to go. Most people should have room for 30-50 pounds of meat. A side of pork is only about 100 lbs.

    There are still some butcher shops that can be found doing bulk sales where you can buy quarters or mixed boxes. That brings the price down a bit.

    It does take a bit of creativity to be a meat eater these days.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,483 admin

    @VermontCathy not sure if American butchers do this but in Australia it is a common practice for butchers to do “meat packs”. Either $75, $100 or $125. They consist of a mixed range of cuts of beef, pork &lamb to feed a family for a week. Maybe not every meal but most days. Sausages, mince(ground beef) steak, lamb chops, pork ribs, bacon, roast and stewing cuts.

    We used to grow our own, we knew exactly how they were reared and what went into them. I miss that but we also eat much less meat these days. Another marketing tool thats become popular, is signing up with a farmer for a set price/kg every fortnight, delivered to your door. Keeps costs down and people who do this seem very happy with the deal.

    Cattle prices are at an all time high and that definitely reflects on the hip pocket. Traditionally tougher cuts have been cheaper but these days the cost comparison is not so large. You’re on the right track with slow cookers etc. There’s only 2 of us but I make meals stretch out, especially cooking with beef or lamb. I add vegetables, beans or chick peas to stretch a meal.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am looking for someone local to raise my meat for me as having animals will not work for me for a bit. I plan to offer growing food for them in return for a small amount of meat or eggs. We do not use much meat.

    Rihgt now I go to my local small store and if meat is close to ther expiration date I get it for a good price. Its still great but they do not want to take ther cahnce and loss a sale so driop the price 3 days before the expiration date.

    When life calms down a little I would like to learn how o cure meat but I think my raisi9ng animals days might be over. ( I say that sadly)

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy Sorry, I got a little bit of a chuckle out of your starting post.

    "Maybe this is because there is little waste when processing pugs, "everything but the squeal" is used?" Pugs? Yeah, I know it's a typo, but it was amusing, in a way.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RustBeltCowgirl It's challenging to post from a smartphone without making typos! :-)

    @Monek Marie Raising animals, even pets, wouldn't work for us either. It is a major responsibility and has a significant impact on your lifestyle.

    I believe there is a big drop between the number of people who are or could be serious gardeners, and the number who could responsibly raise animals.

    Some time ago I watched the first online session of the TGN class on raising ducks, and knew immediately that it wasn't for us.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,116 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I love having access to our fresh meats here. Our local stores sometimes offer freezer boxes but most of what you get in a beef box for example is ground beef. When you figure out your cost per pound, you end up paying way more for the cheap cuts that what you are saving by buying the box.

    We raise chickens and sometimes do pigs. Just had a major butchering session this summer to process everything. However, we do not have room, or feed access at a decent price to raise a cow. We would love to have the fresh beef though. May have to start saving up so when our friends butcher some next time we can buy a half for our freezer.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    I agree it’s getting very expensive and even the “cheaper” cuts are pretty expensive. The world has changed.

    @VermontCathy I wonder if you could connect with other people in your area who might be able to raise meat and split it with you in exchange for vegetables or something else. It’s so hard to be self-sufficient in our own, but sometimes in the greater community there are others to bargain with or work together with. I found that I love the animals just as much as the gardening, but don’t like the butchering and can’t handle bees- but someone else probably can.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 742 ✭✭✭✭

    Inflation in Donelson TN at the thrift store. I saw they were charging $10-$12 for donated used sweaters. That was pretty funny but still pretty sad.