Tale of two proteins: beef prices expensive, pork prices cheap

You’ve likely noticed it at the grocery store and on social media: beef prices are high, but pork prices are low.

Using a few products from a Stats Canada chart as examples, the average price for beef top sirloin, across Canada, was $21.43 per kilogram in June, compared to $18.44 per kilogram in January. The average price of pork loin in the country in June was $8.72, cheaper than what it was in January of $9.65 per kilogram. The average price for a cut of beef ribs were $27.95 per kilogram, while a cut of pork ribs were just $8.16 per kilogram.

The Statistics Canada chart for average monthly food prices can be found here.

“There’s too much product,” said Sylvain Charlebois, professor and researcher with Dalhousie University as to why pork is cheap. “Inventories are quite high domestically.”

“Over the last several months we’ve seen pork products sold at a discount in many different places in the country.” he added.

Charlebois noted bacon is slightly cheaper compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other pork products except for pork ribs.

“Unlike beef where we have seen increases of up to 10 percent this year so far,” he said. “Beef is obviously a premium product but it’s even more expensive now due to droughts in the U.S. and Canada.”

The current trend reminds him of similar events in 2014, when ranchers “decided to go to the slaughterhouse earlier” due to rising feed costs.

Despite the contrast, he says demand for both remains high, especially during the summer and for white proteins such as pork and chicken.

Beef consumption per capita, Charlebois says, has declined over the past few years and expects that trend to continue due to high prices.

“If you’re looking for stable prices, good deals at the meat counter, I would say pork and chicken are you’re best bet right now.” he recommended.

Charlebois believes beef prices will continue to go up, but that wouldn’t stop people from continuing to buy.

“They may actually look at price once in a while but most beef lovers, most people who want to eat beef won’t necessarily look at the price.”