Are grocery stores really less expensive??

written by

Jared Frye

posted on

October 21, 2021

Today we're going to do a little price comparison. We've heard everyone talk about prices going up in the grocery stores, so we decided to take a look. Below, we'll breakdown the difference between our farm prices and one of Roanoke's local grocery stores. Although we tried to compare similar quality, that often wasn't available. So most of these comparisons are to conventionally raised, GMO, grain fed/finished meats.  

So why are prices rising so much on the meat in the grocery stores? Well there’s several factors coming into play here.

One of the things that has been happening for well over a year now are impacts from the pandemic. A lot of folks have been, and still are, stocking up on meat, which increases demand beyond what was considered “normal”. Combine that with the effects of the large meat packing plants shutting down for extended periods of time and there is a serious backlog now being realized across the mass produced meat industry.

The other thing that is impacting meat production prices is inflation. As the costs of inputs continue to go up, costs will rise for all aspects of the process going from farm to grocery store. The feedlots are paying more for feed and fuel, the packing plants are seeing increased labor wages, and shipping both offshore and domestic are of course getting hit with high fuel costs. And yes, I did say offshore, because you would be amazed at how much of the meat you see in the grocery store comes from outside of the country…..but that’s a whole other topic for another day!

 Although it's never fun when prices go up, it does give you the opportunity to make a change. If you're going to spend the money anyways, why not keep your money in the community, and buy from someone you trust?  

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Why is Our Meat Frozen?

One thing that I’ve heard from folks at the various venues before and was mentioned a couple of times in the survey was our meat being frozen instead of thawed. So, let’s dig into that a little more this week and explain some of the logistics of our operation and compare that to the meat you could (because you don’t right?!) buy ‘thawed’ at the grocery store. We’ve talked previously about food labeling laws and the loopholes that exist to allow imported meat to be labeled as “Product of the USA” – and if you missed those emails, I made them into blog posts so you can find them here. But the key to that is that a lot of meat is being imported into the US. According to a report done by Reuters in early November the US is on track to import a record 3.7 billion pounds of beef by the end of 2023….and if trends continue that will reach 4.2 billion pounds in 2024! And that’s just the beef! Now, is that meat in the grocery store really fresh? Australia is one of the largest suppliers of beef to the United States, a journey that takes anywhere from 4-6 weeks depending on the port of entry to the US. I did some digging online and depending on which import company you look at some claim to be ‘wet aging’ the beef in large containers kept extremely cold during the journey and others will freeze the large primal cuts of meat and pack them tightly into those containers and let the crammed in meat help to keep it all frozen until arrival. Once in the states whether frozen or not, that meat is taken out and then processed down into the final cuts of steaks, roasts, and ground that you would get at the grocery store. Then is has to been shipped to a distribution center that then ships it out to grocery stores across the country. I mean if you like well travel meat, there ya go! That ground beef has seen some things! And all of those steps are done without freezing the meat? I don’t think so! That’s anywhere from 8-10 weeks from slaughter to showing up in the meat case at the grocery store. And you have no idea where it came from? Our process is a little shorter…just a little! For instance, as this message hits your inbox we’re on our way to the processor to drop off another load of cows. That same day those animals will be cut into large primal sections and then hung in a cooler for 14 days to dry age. And if you’re curious about dry aging, check out this link (Dry Aged Beef: What Is It and How Does It Work? – Robb Report) it’s one of the best explanations I’ve read about the process. On the 14th day those primal cuts are taken out, all the ‘aged’ meat on the outside is trimmed off and the large cuts are then cut down into individual steaks, roasts, etc. Once everything is cut, it is packaged, loaded into boxes and placed into one of their large walk-in freezers. We receive a call that day or the next that it’s ready to pickup – we’ll drive down and get the product and bring it back to the farm ready to sell to all of you! So, when you’re buying from us or another similar local farm you are truly getting some of the freshest meat possible! If we were to keep all the meat unfrozen we would need to get it sold extremely quickly…1 cow will typically produce over 400 pounds of fresh meat. Let’s just say on average a pound of beef is good for 3 days when kept in the typical fridge, we would need to get rid of all 400 plus pounds in less than a week! And as much as I wish we were selling 300-400 pounds every 3 or 4 days….well we’re not there quite yet! We really are trying our best to get all of you the freshest, highest quality meats we possibly can. And while several of you commented in the survey that while you wish you could get thawed out meat, you also said, it’s more important that you know where it came from and how it was raised. Hopefully that helps you some with knowing why our meats are available how they are, and while that may not be exactly what you had in mind it’s one of the freshest options available when buying individual cuts! As always thank you for reading and continuing on this journey with us! Jared