Why? We're not stupid. It's about bang for the buck. Processed foods (chips, candies, mac & cheese), on a calorie for calorie basis cost less than low calorie, more nutritious foods (broccoli, apples, salmon).
But where's the logic there? How can machine created foods cost less than something that comes pretty much straight from a tree?
One reason is that with manufactured foods, one can add preservatives to extend shelf life and keep costs low. Think less waste. A second reason is that the government subsidizes the main ingredients, such as corn, wheat, rice, or soybeans.
Here's how this connects to beef, or just meat in general. If we collectively substitute boxed food for fresh food, my fear is that the good folks who actually produce fresh, clean, great tasting meat will be forced economically to return to producing commodity food e.g. beef laden with growth hormones or cheap feed or both.
We can't ask people to spend money they don't have.
But here are some thoughts on how you might be able to keep clean, well-raised meats in your diet and support good farmers, humane treatment, and sustainable practices while you’re at it.
- We've been successful at keeping costs down by buying even fewer packaged goods than before and maintaining our purchases of high quality meat and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Buy meat in bulk and freeze it or, far better, buy meat that's been professionally frozen to begin with. Today's blast-freezing technology freezes meat so quickly that it prevents the formation of ice-crystals that can lead to freezer burn or a loss of liquid during thawing.
- For steaks, do what many restaurants do, buy a whole piece, e.g. the entire Strip Loin, and have it cut into steaks and vacuum-sealed for you. You can also save by choosing Sirloin or Flat Irons or other less expensive cuts or eating smaller portions – a 12 oz New York Strip Loin steak can easily feed 2 or even 3 people.
- For stew, try a cross-rib roast and cut it into cubes yourself.
- If you have a food processor or meat grinder, buy a whole brisket and use this to make delicious homemade ground beef.
As long as the cattle were raised with care and without the use of artificial growth stimulants (hormones, antibiotics) and the beef has been properly aged - at LEAST 7 days (and ideally 14 days or more) - you can get great, flavorful, tender meat. By being smart about the way you buy it, you can also get it for a very good price.
If you have further tips to share, please let me know, I’d welcome guest posts.
Or, if you’re looking for more tips, please send me a note at Carrie [at] oliverranch [dot] com.