Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Cost of Meat in Brazil - Some Interesting Changes

Compared to the cost in North America or Europe, the price charged for animal protein in supermarkets and butcher shops in Brazil is very cheap - both in actual cost and in percentage of the cost of all food purchases. As Brazil's export market for meat, particularly beef, grows the trend has been over the past few years for a gradual increase in the cost of meat.

In an article in today's O Povo, one of Fortaleza's daily newspapers, the increasing cost of meat has had an unanticipated and interesting twist added to it. The article is primarily concerned with beef prices in Fortaleza, and indicates that while the cost of what are called "secondary cuts" - cuts similar to chuck, brisket, round - continues to rise, there has been a dramatic fall in the cost of "noble cuts" such as filé-mignon, sirloin, and tenderloin.

What has happened, apparently, is that the price for noble cuts rose dramatically in the second half of 2010, sometimes by close to 100%. As a result, consumers turned their attention to the lower-priced secondary cuts. Sales of noble cuts dropped, and sales of secondary cuts rose. As a result of this change in consumer behavior, there is currently an excess quantity noble cut meat on the market, and a deficit of secondary cut meat. So, as will happen according to the law of supply and demand, prices have gone down for noble cuts, and up for secondary cuts.

For example, consider the case of filé-mignon. According to the article, in December of 2010, this cut of beef was retailing for between R$45 and R$50 per kilo (equivalent to USD $12 - $14 per pound). This past week, it has been selling for half of that - R$22 to R$25 (equivalent to USD $6 - $7 per pound). Conversely, the cost for patinho (similar to bottom round steak) during the same period of time has increased from R$12 to R$14 per kilo. In other words, in December filé-mignon was twice as expensive as patinho and today they are equally priced.

Whether the Brazilian consumer will now reverse their pattern of consumption once again and start buying more filé-mignon and less patinho remains to be seen. That would, naturally, increase the cost of the more noble cuts again to what they were historically. But in the meantime, I'm planning to visit my neighborhood butcher and stock up on bargain-basement-priced filé-mignon while it lasts.

If this post has you dreaming of a tender, lean filé-mignon, the next here on Flavors of Brazil will provide you with a perfect recipe for that marvelous cut of beef.


  1. I just bought some File Mignon today and yes, R$24/kilo. Not bad!

  2. Thanks, Rachel, for the confirmation. I also spotted file mignon for R$24.99 at my local Pao de Acucar.

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