Why Is Pork Cheaper Than Beef? (5 Main Reasons Explained)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

Pork and beef are two common types of meat consumed globally, and their retail prices play a vital role in consumer choices.

Being a carnivore and pork eater for a decade, I wanted to understand why pork is generally cheaper than beef.

I interviewed farmers and butchers to get their perspectives. I also consulted nutritionists to uncover why this product is less expensive.

In this article, I will delve into detail and explore the five main reasons behind the price difference between these two meats.

Quick Summary

  • Pork is cheaper than beef due to factors such as fast maturity, less expensive feed, and more automated processing.
  • Despite being more affordable, pork is rich in nutrients and proteins, and all parts of the pig can be converted into different kinds of meat.
  • Most affordable pork cuts include pork loin, pork ribs, and loin chops.
  • If you’re on the lookout for delicious, high-quality pork or beef, check out ButcherBox, a meat delivery company offering grass-fed, antibiotic, and hormone-free meat that they deliver straight to your door at the frequency of your own choosing.

WHY PORK is Cheaper Than Beef

Cooked pork chop close up

There are several reasons pork is cheaper than beef, including hogs' growth rate, meat processing, nutritional factors, cheap feeding, and more. In short, pigs are very cost-effective animals.

Pork is a popular option because it has protein, fat, and calories you need in a daily diet. It's one of the most versatile kinds of meat available and eaten worldwide.

However, though pork is affordable compared to beef, pork meat prices have gone up in the last couple of years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that pork prices have increased slightly [1].

“All meat prices are up, but beef prices are up disproportionately higher than the rest of the protein prices.”
- Arun Sundaram, Analyst at CFRA, Wall Street Research Firm 

However, pork is still more affordable than beef, as there’s been beef’s dramatic price increase during the last three years.

5 Reasons Why Pork Is Cheaper than Beef

1. Growth Rate

Close up shot of a face of a pig

Pigs grow fast and have multiple offspring. An average sow is pregnant for 16 to 17 weeks and gives birth to 10 or more piglets [2]. The piglets become self-sufficient very fast, so the sow can give birth twice a year.

Pigs also don’t need much time to reach market size. This happens in less than 6 months.

Because of their fast growth rate, you can start a farm with one sow and one boar and have more than two pigs by the end of the year.

Each new sow will have litter twice a year, and so on, making pigs a cheap initial investment.

Slaughter of the pigs happens once the pig reaches 220 lbs, or in other words, before a pig reaches puberty.

On the other hand, a cow can only give birth once a year. It takes longer for the calf to become self-sufficient, so the cattle are more expensive to raise.

2. Diet

Another reason pork is cheaper than beef is because of its diet. Pigs are omnivorous, which makes them very easy to feed. They’ll eat anything, and they grow and fatten quickly.

Many pigs feed on waste, such as dinner scraps, grains, grass, fruits and vegetables, greens, and more. Pigs turn their food into proteins and fats, so their body parts are turned into different cuts of edible meat.

Some pig farms give the pigs a specific food type to get better meat flavor.

This kind of meat is more expensive. However, these farms are rare, as most farms raise male pigs and sows with cheap feed.

Cattle aren’t so cheap to feed. That requires buying special concentrates, hay, corn, grains, and more, all of which can be expensive.

3. Processing

Mincemeat being processed

Another reason a pig is a cost-effective farm animal is the processing. Pig processing is a more automated process compared to other farm animals.

Beef is difficult to carry and handle. Beef transport requires more employees compared to pork. Plus, truck payments and fuel for transportation raise the cost of the beef.

Overall, pigs need less labor and have lower transportation costs, which contributes to the lower price.

4. Nutritional Factors

When comparing the nutritional factors of pork and beef, pork is richer in nutrients but also has more fat.

Pork has more unsaturated fats than beef and more B1, B2, E, and D Vitamins.

Vitamin D is especially important. Beef completely lacks this vitamin, while 100g of pork has 13% of Vitamin D daily requirements [3].

However, beef does have a higher amount of Vitamin B12. B12 is an essential vitamin, and the fact that beef has it in abundance raises its price.

5. Pigs Have More Meat

A butcher holding a tray of meat

The final reason why prices of pork cuts are lower than beef is that pork has more meat, and this meat is used 100%.

There’s very little wastage. All parts of pigs can be converted to different kinds of meat, such as ham, bacon, sausage, and more.

For example, skin is used for bacon, bones for broth, and more. Even pork belly and internal organs can be used.

Pigs grow large, so the meat you get from a pig is more than what you get from cattle. Because pigs produce a lot of piglets, this means a lot of pig meat that’s easy to feed.

Most Affordable Pork Cuts

A butcher getting meet from a glass storage

Here are the cheapest cuts if you love to eat pork:

  • Pork butt and pork shoulder — Usually separated into different cuts. A picnic roast is found closer to the leg. The butt is on the upward part of the cut and is fattier. These are best cooked low and slow.
  • Pork loin — Can be cooked in different ways and be deboned or left bone-in. This is an affordable alternative to prime rib.
  • Ham hock — Part of the pig’s leg, and it’s best eaten slow-roasted.
  • Ground pork — Nutritious and good alternative to ground beef.
  • Pork ribs — Have a lot of fat content, so it tastes sweet and flavorful. You can grill or barbecue it.
  • Rib chops — Pork chop comes from the same rack of baby back ribs.
  • Hot dogs — All-beef ones taste delicious but also cost premium. If you can’t afford beef, pork and ground turkey combo is a good substitute.
  • Boneless pork chops — These are considered ribeye of pork, so if you can’t get beef ribs or steak, this is a good substitute.
  • Loin chops — Extremely juicy and flavorful.

Overall, pork cuts are a great substitute for other meat, such as ground turkey, beef loin, and ground beef. It’s easy to cook pork, and it’s affordable.

Pork Recipes You Might Like:

FAQs

Is Pork Healthier Than Beef?

Yes, pork is healthier than beef when comparing the nutrients.

What Is the Cleanest Meat to Consume?

The cleanest meat to consume is chicken, beef, and pork.

Is Pork the Lowest Quality of Meat?

No! Pork isn’t the lowest quality of meat. It's a popular source of high-quality protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12, essential for the immune system.


References:

  1. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.t02.
  2. htmhttps://www.thepigsite.com/articles/small-scale-pig-keeping-the-fundamentals-of-farrowin
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941824/
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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
Iva Carter is a FBP certified foodie and influencer who loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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