The Cost of Buffalo Meat
About a month ago, we raised our buffalo meat prices. The costs are driven by supply and demand which affects the market price for buffalo set by the USDA, and also other inflationary costs associated with raising an animal and ending up with a consumer ready - packaged product.
We heard from some of you on this price increase and we also had the opportunity to speak with some of you further, explaining that our price increase was absolutely necessary. We wanted to offer all those interested in knowing the costs of Wild Idea’s buffalo meat, the same transparency.
The current USDA price for bison meat on the rail (an animal carcass) is $4.80 per pound. This price is based on grain-finished animals, as there are not enough grass animals to have a USDA data baseline. We add a sliding percentage to the USDA price based on animal weight and because of our higher criteria standards, which include; 100% pasture grass-fed/grass-finished, land stewardship through holistic ranch management, and protection of species.
To further understand the costs, it is also important to understand the salable meat of an animal. We typically harvest animals that are between two and three years of age and the weight breaks down to the following:
A 1,000-pound animal = a 500-pound carcass, which = a yield about 340 pounds of salable meat. Of that salable product, 240 pounds of it becomes ground meat. Comparatively you get 6 to 8 pounds of tenderloin, and around 20 pounds of ribeye per animal.
Our insistence of a humane field harvest also requires a separate crew of four to five workers and includes, a truck driver, sharp shooter, and butchers. The carcasses are then transported back to our plant, where a team of artisan meat cutters, sausage makers, and packagers turn those carcasses into consumer-ready, meat products. Once the product is in the package, there are still two other departments between the product and the consumer; our sales and shipping teams. Plus, there are the expenses necessary to run a business.
Anyone who has ever been in the food industry knows that it is one of the lowest margin businesses in the world. And, even though we consumers spend 20+% less on food than what we did 70 years ago, we ironically still have strong opinions about it. We also get excited when food is cheap: “Five for a dollar!” “Eight bucks a pound!” “Buy one get one free!” We keep our focus on the upfront cost, without looking at the back-end costs of; prairie plow up, species loss, unhealthy soil and water, unhealthy animals, unhealthy food, and so on. The IOU is coming, and someone will have to pay.
Still, it is difficult to wrap our minds around food costs. Recently we received this question, “I just don’t get it, if you don’t have all of those inputs of additional feeds and corn, or, trucking to slaughter facilities, or hauling food to the animals, and your animals are just walking around eating grass, why is your meat more expensive?” Fair enough question. First, the feeds are subsidized by you the taxpayer. Second, for all the reasons mentioned above. And third, you must consider the land health and the land cost. Dan states, “When I bought my first ranch in South Dakota in 1970, the cost of land was $270.00 an acre. When I bought the first chunk of ground on our current ranch it was $400.00 an acre and now land is going for over $1,000.00 an acre. On the Great Plains mixed grass prairies, it takes about 35 acres per buffalo. The only way to bring back the buffalo is to grow our land base. For me this is about conserving and protecting a threatened ecosystem. We simply can’t afford to lose our prairies.”
We should also be reminded that 90% of the buffalo meat that is raised for our food supply is finished in the cattle feedlot system. To compare these two different end products is like comparing apples to oranges. And, not just in taste, but also in the trickle down affects it has on the health of the land, water, animals, our food supply, and us.
At Wild Idea we take your comments and complaints very seriously and always try to make it right by you, as we know you have taken the time to sustainably source your food and that you have paid a fair price for the product.
We are very aware that we have a product that is not cheap and we are listening to you. Although a price increase was absolutely needed to keep our company going, we are trying to figure out how we can offer you a break without it breaking us.
We do occasionally offer bundles with free shipping and discounts when we can. So - if you have moved away from us due to price, we hope you stay connected - as there may be an offer that works for you.
Our ground buffalo meat products are super user friendly and a must have staple that can be turned into so many delicious & healthy meals.
Please know that we will continue to do our best for you in every way, including pricing. We truly appreciate your support, not just for our company, but also for caring where and how your food is raised. Together, we can make a difference, one bite at a time. Thank you.