Why Grassfed Costs More

Stanley Fishman

Stanley Fishman › Stanley Fishman was very ill most of his life, with asthma and constant lung infections which ...

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(And Is Worth It)

If you buy grassfed meat, you know that the price is rising. Every producer I know has raised their prices. If an internet producer charges you the price of shipping, that cost has increased as well.

Nobody likes to pay higher prices, especially in a tough economy. But in this case, I am going to continue to buy just as much grassfed meat as ever, and even more when I can. Why?

Because I want to be able to get grassfed meat, now and in the future. If I want to have the unique health benefits of grassfed meat for my family, I am going to have to support the ranchers who raise it, even in these tough times. And I invite you to join me. Because if we do not support them, grassfed meat could no longer be available.

Why the Grassfed Industry Is in Danger

There are a number of reasons that have worked together to cause the rise in prices. The rise in prices threatens the very existence of the grassfed meat industry, as will be shown.

The Increasing Cost of Fuel
Everyone knows how much the price of fuel has risen. This means that the cost to ship feed, cattle, and meat have increased enormously. In fact, the cost to ship ANYTHING is much more expensive. Shipping costs are a big expense for every rancher, and they continue to go up.

The Increasing Cost of Soy and Corn
The cost of soy and corn  has greatly increased. Soy and corn are used to feed factory cattle. You might ask, “What does the cost of soy and corn have to do with grassfed cattle?” After all, the grass is free. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. With soy and corn being so valuable, a number of farmers that used to raise cattle have decided they can make more money raising soy or corn, and have sold their herds, converting their pasture to cropland. It is much easier to grow seasonal crops than to nursemaid a herd of cattle 365 days a year. Less cattle being raised has created the most crucial part of the problem—a greatly reduced supply of feeder cattle.

The Shortage of Feeder Cattle
Feeder cattle are steers that are old enough and large enough to go to the feedlot. Again, you may ask, what do feedlot cattle have to do with the price of grassfed beef? Quite a lot, unfortunately. Because the high cost of feed has changed what the feedlots are looking for. The feedlots now want cattle to be kept on pasture longer, so the feedlot needs less feed to bring them up to slaughter weight.

For example, in one area, the feedlots would only buy a steer at the weight of 500 pounds. Today, the price of feed is so high that the feedlots want to buy steers at 1000 pounds—twice the weight. That greatly reduces the amount of feed the feedlots will have to buy to bring the steer to market weight. This situation makes the pasture that the steer eats to reach 1000 pounds very valuable. Obviously the steer sold at 1000 pounds will raise a lot more money than the 500-pound steer.

Steers destined for feedlots are competing for pasture with grass-finished steers. The shortage of feeder cattle has caused the price to rise to the point where a grassfed farmer will not make much more money for raising a grassfed and grass-finished steer. It takes about twice as long to finish a steer on grass as it does on feedlot feed, and requires much more work and effort from the rancher, for not very much more money.

In other words, selling cattle to a feedlot has become much more attractive financially. Selling more cattle to feedlots reduces the supply of grassfed meat, and causes the price to rise.

The Danger
And this is the great danger. If more and more grassfed farmers give up on raising grassfed beef and sell to the feedlots, the supply of grassfed beef will be reduced. The price will continue to rise to the point that only the truly rich can afford grassfed meat. If that happens, the movement is dead. The best way we can keep this from happening is to pay the prices charged by the quality grassfed producers who charge the least, so they can stay in business and thrive.

We are lucky that there are many grassfed ranchers who are doing their best to keep the price down, because they want people to be able to afford this wonderful food.

We need not sacrifice quality to do this. In fact, most of the best meat is raised by those small ranchers who try to make their meat affordable for most people, rather than focusing on catering to the super rich. All of these dedicated farmers have had to raise their prices, and I will pay them, because I know what is at stake. Grassfed meat is one of the healthiest foods we can eat, and is irreplaceable, in my opinion. Health Benefits of Grassfed Meat.

Careful Shopping Can Help

Comparison shopping can help reduce the cost of grassfed meat. There is a huge difference in price among various producers and retailers.

For my area, the best buys I have found are these:

I buy all of my local grassfed meat from Humboldt Grassfed Beef, which sells its wonderful grassfed meat at Lunardi’s markets, an eight-store chain in the San Francisco Bay Area, and to other retailers in California. Their meat costs much less than the meat carried by Whole Foods, for example, and tastes much better.

When I shop on the Internet, I buy most of my meat from U.S. Wellness Meats, which charges only $7.50 for shipping and handling for most orders, has many of the lowest prices on the Internet, a huge selection of wonderful grassfed meat, regular sales, and a number of ways to save.

You can also save a lot of money by buying a whole steer, a half steer, or a quarter steer from a local farmer, though you will need a lot of freezer space. Eatwild.com has a list of such farmers, by state.

I am going to continue to buy just as much grassfed meat as ever, even at the higher prices, because I want to preserve the availability of humanity’s oldest and most valuable food. And because I love to eat it!

This article originally appeared on tendergrassfedmeat.com. It is re-posted here with permission from the author.

THE WRITER: Stanley Fishman has written two cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue. He is devoted to the real food movement and blogs about grassfed meat and other real food issues at tendergrassfedmeat.com.