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Is Free Range Meat Expensive?

I am often asked about the cost of free-range, outdoor-reared, organic meat. Many people question if it costs too much to eat the MND way.

I admit that some organic food is expensive, and some free range meat is expensive, but honestly, personally, I think the investment in my health is worth it. I buy food that nourishes my body, I know the animals have been treated properly, with some dignity and respect, and I know the life of that animal, and hence the food I am eating, has been lived more in tune with nature.

The picture shows a lunch I cooked last week. Pork and greens, quick, simple, yummy. I put a drizzle of olive oil in the pan, chopped up a leek first and threw that in, then I chopped up my pork tenderloin, threw that in, then a handful of kale chopped up (I keep telling you I eat either kale or broccoli every day of my life, often both, often multiple times! I had kale in all my meals the day I made this!)

Quick and cheap, for my main meal of the day

This took less than 5 mins to prepare, and max 5 mins to cook.

My pork tenderloin weighed 395 grams raw (about a pound) it cost just £3.65

So this lunch cost about £4 quid in total, and it was tasty, natural and nutritious. I sprinkled on some black pepper and a sprig of parsley, easy, quick, tasty. No additives. No chemicals…there was even some free mud on my kale. Perfect, I didn’t even wash it off.

Eating natural, healthy food does not need to be expensive, difficult or time consuming. My 4 quid lunch proves that. A deep-fill sandwich off the supermarket shelf can cost easily £3.50 or more these days, and I bet you can’t get lunch in Starbucks or Costa Coffee for under 4 pounds. And what nutrients will you get from Starbucks for £4 quid? None…you’ll get sugar, sugar and more sugar.

Comparing meat prices

I have been looking at meat prices in my local farm shop, where I buy most of my outdoor-reared meat.
Prices range from the cheapest meat, Unsmoked Gammon on the bone, at just £4.99 per kilo, to the ridiculous, Fillet steak at £34.99 per kilo.
My absolute favourite food at the moment is slow-roast pulled pork, and a boneless shoulder of pork is one of the cheap meats off my list, at just £5.75 per kilo.

Here are a few prices for you to compare, this is just a selection from the full range of what is available:

  • Unsmoked Gammon on the bone: £4.99 per kilo
  • Boneless shoulder of pork: £5.75 per kilo
  • Shoulder of lamb: £7.25 per kilo
  • Chicken: £7.95 per kilo
  • Turkey: £7.95 per kilo
  • Topside of beef: £9.95 per kilo
  • Diced Venison: £9.95 per kilo
  • Leg of Lamb on the bone: £11.95 per kilo
  • Rib of Beef off the bone: £16.55 per kilo
  • Sirloin steak: £23.95 per kilo
  • Fillet steak: £34.99 per kilo

I mostly buy (in this order): Shoulder of pork, chicken, shoulder of lamb, topside of beef, diced venison and turkey. Nothing more than ten pounds per kilo.

These rates are for meat that has been raised on a local farm, mostly outdoor raised and free range. I think the chicken is barn-reared, but classed as free range so at least they have a bit of space. The chicken is not perfect. The pork, lamb, beef is all outdoor pasture-raised, so eating a largely natural diet, I.E. mostly grass-fed.

By comparison, supermarket prices for ‘normal’ meat look like this:

  • Sainsbury’s chicken breast diced: £9.96 per kilo
  • Sainsbury’s chicken breast filets: £12.99 per kilo
  • Tesco chicken breast diced: £10.00 per kilo
  • Tesco chicken breast fillets: £13.33 per kilo
  • Tesco VALUE chicken breasts (really poorly treated chickens!): £8:32 per kilo
  • Tesco FINEST free range corn fed chicken breast fillets: £22.22 per kilo (yikes!!)
  • Tesco organic diced beef: £9.88 per kilo
  • ASDA Butchers Selection organic diced beef: £10.00 per kilo
  • ASDA Silverside or Topside beef: £9.97 per kilo
  • ASDA boneless shoulder of pork: £3.00 per kilo (I’m thinking these piggies are not stroked and cuddled and loved every day at this price…this meat is not for me, I hate to think about it…that these animals are not treated well, and suffer miserable lives!)
  • Sainsbury’s Roast Beef Joint: Range £9.99 to £11.99 per kilo
  • Sainsbury’s British pork shoulder, boneless: £5.99 per kilo
  • Sainsbury’s BASIC’s pork shoulder, boneless: £3.99 per kilo (I would never buy this!)
  • Sainsbury’s diced lamb: £13.33 per kilo
  • Sainsbury’s boneless lamb shoulder: £8:49 per kilo

OK, I could go on all day with this, hundreds of meats in several supermarkets, but you get the idea.

It comes down to this: There are the ‘cheap’ cuts, the ‘value’ or ‘basics’ or ‘price buster’ meats, but these represent the worst possible choices. This is meat from animals who are treated like a factory product, in life and in death. I strongly recommend that you do not participate in this animal cruelty. For a typical household that eats meat several times per week, the difference between buying this cheap stuff, and going to a local farm shop for the good stuff, is really only about 20 quid a week.

“For a typical household that eats meat several times per week, the difference between buying this cheap stuff, and going to a local farm shop for the good stuff, is really only about 20 quid a week.”

Think about that. I know 20 quid a week adds up, so it’s 100 pounds per month, but decide where else could you trim back 100 pounds per month? If you buy good meat from animals that have been looked after a bit better, you are eating a better quality food, lower in fat, and you are helping to promote good animal welfare. In our house, we recently dropped Sky TV in our house (hoorah, I have been nagging my wife to get rid of it for ages!) so now we save 65 pounds per month from that.

What other costs could you drop to save money? A grand soy latte in Starbucks on the way to work every morning, that can add up. At about 3 pounds per visit, 5 days per week, that’s 60 pounds per month just for a cup of fancy coffee!

As for the prices listed above for the ‘good’ meat…the free range, outdoor reared meat, it looks to me like it is actually CHEAPER to shop at my local farm shop than in the supermarkets. Most of the prices listed above show that free range meat in the supermarkets (which may still have travelled a long way and carry a hefty carbon price tag…and it’s harder to gauge freshness, harder to estimate how long that meat has been in refrigerated storage and transport) is more expensive per kilo that the locally-raised meat in my nearest farm shop, where I can see the sheep and pigs grazing in the fields near my home.

So don’t be afraid to go to your local farm shop or independent butcher. It is a myth that supermarkets are cheaper, they are not. It is better to buy the cheaper cuts from a good source of meat, than it is to buy the lean cuts from poorly raised meat. Supermarket prices for the good lean cuts (or the best/finest/etc., range) can be a very expensive way to buy meat, and we think we are buying quality…but there is no guarantee that quality is coming from an animal that was looked after OR raised on a healthy natural diet. Organic means no drugs, but it does not promise the animal was well treated, Free range means the animal had room to move about, but it does not guarantee outdoor-living and it does not guarantee a natural diet.

It is better to find a local farm or butcher (talk to your local butcher, ask him where his meat comes from and how it was fed and raised…these days they are used to these questions from more caring and concerned consumers and they will have the answers for you) and ascertain that your meat comes from a clean source, and then select the cheaper cuts of meat. This makes much more sense than to keep wasting your money on the expensive ‘best’ or ‘finest’ meats in your supermarket, with so many questions over quality. The big supermarkets are cashing in on conscientious consumers who want to try to be healthy, and they are charging a fortune, with no guarantees of quality.

Well, that’s just my opinion anyway! Do your home work, where you shop, and you might find that healthy and natural is not as expensive as you think.

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