The Rising Cost of Meat

Harper Quill

Updated Sunday, October 8, 2023 at 4:09 AM CDT

The Rising Cost of Meat

Understanding the Shift in Meat Prices

In recent years, many people have noticed a significant increase in the cost of meat. What used to be considered cheap cuts, such as chicken wings, oxtails, skirt steak, and brisket, have now become more expensive. This phenomenon has left many wondering why there are no longer any affordable options when it comes to meat. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind the rising cost of meat and explore the various factors contributing to this shift.

Supply and Demand Dynamics

One of the fundamental principles of economics is the law of supply and demand. When the demand for a particular product increases, while the supply remains constant, the price tends to rise. This concept applies to the meat industry as well. As more people develop a taste for certain cuts of meat, the demand for these cuts increases. However, the supply of these cuts does not always keep up with the rising demand, leading to higher prices.

Factors Influencing Meat Prices

There are several factors that contribute to the rising cost of meat. One significant factor is the increasing cost of raising animals for slaughter. It takes a substantial amount of land and food to raise an animal to market size. As land prices and grain prices continue to rise, the cost of meat production also increases. These rising production costs are then passed on to consumers, resulting in higher prices at the meat counter.

Another factor influencing meat prices is the consolidation of the meat processing industry. The percentage of control held by the big four meat processing companies has risen from 55% to 85% since the pandemic. Companies like Marfrig, Tyson, and JBS, which have overlapping boards, have raised their prices. While there may not be direct collusion, the interconnectedness of these companies has contributed to the overall increase in meat prices.

Additionally, the overall cost of running a meat shop has increased due to inflation. As stores aim to maintain their profit margins, any increase in their costs, such as the cost of meat, is passed on to consumers. For example, if the cost of meat for a store increases by $4, they may charge an additional $5.2 to maintain a 30% margin. These inflationary pressures further contribute to the rising cost of meat.

Changing Perceptions and Trends

It is also important to consider the changing perceptions and trends in the food industry. What was once considered "poor people food" has now become trendy among wealthier communities. The rise of "nose-to-tail" cooking, where chefs utilize every part of the animal, has led to increased demand for cuts like oxtails and pigs' feet. Social media influencers advocating for carnivore and raw meat diets have also contributed to the demand for offal meat, which has limited supply. As a result, the prices of these cuts have risen.

Furthermore, there is a phenomenon known as "gentrification in the food industry." Foods that were once associated with poverty have become sought-after delicacies. Lobster, for example, was once considered "trash seafood" but gained popularity among the wealthy, leading to its transformation into a luxury item. Similarly, the increasing demand for certain cuts of meat has driven up their prices, as they are now seen as desirable by affluent consumers.

Climate change also plays a role in the rising cost of meat. Extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, such as droughts, wildfires, and floods, have a significant impact on the agriculture industry. These conditions make it challenging to grow feed for livestock, leading to decreased supply and increased costs. The effects of climate change on agriculture further contribute to the rising prices of meat.

The rising cost of meat can be attributed to a combination of factors. Supply and demand dynamics, increasing production costs, consolidation in the meat processing industry, changing perceptions and trends, and the impact of climate change all contribute to the higher prices consumers are experiencing. While it may be disheartening for those seeking affordable cuts of meat, understanding these factors can provide valuable insights into the complex nature of the meat industry.

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