ECONOMICS OF EATING: Understanding the Cost of Beef

Cattle Herd in a Farmer's Field

When you visit a butcher shop or supermarket to buy beef, you might look for good colour and a local producer’s label– but we all know it’s hard not to focus on the price tag. It’s a fact of life: we all weigh our need to spend money prudently with our desire for the highest quality product. This mentality causes consumers to look for the biggest bargain at all times, which is great when you know how the savings are created. Unfortunately, lack of knowledge about the cost of beef can lead you to purchase a lesser quality product just to save a few cents.

Read on for our guide to understanding the cost of beef in Canada.


Hamburger, steak, ribs, roasts– beef is the most popular red meat on the tables of Canadian consumers, especially Alberta. Cattle farms raise cows that are most commonly sold to slaughterhouses that then sell the beef to butchers or supermarkets.


Every level, from farmer to cashier, must profit from the cost of beef– but who sets the price? You! Consumers are the most significant influence on the price of beef. The more beef that is purchased by consumers (whether bought directly, in other products or at restaurants), the higher the demand becomes.


If supply can keep up with demand, the cost of beef stay reasonable– but spikes in beef prices can occur for a number of reasons. Farmers’ herd volumes, the health of cattle, international demand for Canadian beef, and the value of the Canadian dollar are all factors that can sway the price of beef at your local butcher or supermarket.


Look at your labels! Canadian beef is from Canada, not necessarily Alberta. Even Alberta beef can still be sourced from major feedlots with lower standards for animal health and comfort. Here at D’Arcy’s we work closely with our suppliers, ensuring animals receive humane and ethical treatment– sourced locally and organically whenever possible.


The best time to purchase beef might not coincide with when you need or want a prime cut of beef. Instead of relying on coupons or flash sales of supermarket beef (usually discounted because it’s nearing expiration), consult with us at D’Arcy’s to find a fairly priced, better quality product or an alternative that will suit your needs.

HALF A COW, MAN: The Advantages of Buying a Side of Beef


So you want to buy your beef in bulk. This is a good decision for many reasons, but first some facts.

How is beef sold in bulk?

Beef is generally sold in sides ranging from 300-400 pounds on average, which is almost literally half of a cow. When you buy a side of beef, you are not getting 300 pounds of your favourite cuts– cows are not just all sirloins and t-bones. Steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket and a wide variety of grindable meat and usable bones are all produced out of one side of beef. Consider investing in one or many other households and splitting the cost and sheer amount of beef between the group.

Where do I buy sides of beef or whole cows?

If you are interested in investing in a side or whole cow, consult with us here at D’Arcy’s first. We can give you detailed information on our local, high-quality suppliers and we can clearly outline your options for how the beef will be butchered. Depending on availability, bulk orders of beef need to be ordered in advance.

Now that you know some of the nuts and bolts of buying in bulk, here are some benefits of investing in large portions of beef:


Many local or small-scale beef farmers can only afford to sell in larger amounts. Buying beef directly from the farmer through a reputable butcher like D’Arcy’s will nurture local food development and support sustainable practices.


While the initial investment may seem steep, buying in bulk can actually be cheaper over the long term when compared to grocery store prices. Your savings on beef alone could cover the cost of a new deep freeze (including the energy to run it) in a year or so. Splitting a larger investment across more households can also lead to even more substantial savings.


Prefer grass fed, hormone-free beef? By choosing your beef provider directly, you can avoid confusing corporate and government labels and have meat raised the way you want it to be raised. Bulk beef orders can also be butchered to specification, down to the very last pound.


Buying directly in bulk and eating locally can reduce the scope and need for factory farming, which is extremely harmful to the environment. Use your dollar to support beef producers that raise their animals humanely and responsibly: it benefits the entire planet.

Still unsure if you are ready for hundreds of pounds of beef? Don’t worry, we got you. Come into D’Arcy’s with any questions and concerns you might have of buying local, high quality beef in bulk. We’re happy to help!