At Duba & Company, we realize that we’re asking the consumer to pay for heritage meats maybe twice what they’re used to paying for conventional meat. One is reminded of Starbucks doing the same years ago in a market that only knew of a $0.25 cup of coffee. One is reminded, too, of the proportionately higher prices that microbreweries ask for their craft brews. This post is meant to give readers an appreciation not only for the costs involved in raising heritage meats but also the added value of the next microbrew movement that’s only just beginning to take place: the rediscovery of heritage meat.
Much of the retail price of heritage meats can be understood by looking at why conventional meat is so inexpensive, by comparison. The low cost of conventional meat is a towering example of the economies of scale: raising animals quickly (with the added help of growth hormones), in close quarters (requiring antibiotics), and feeding them inexpensive feed (which requires no expertise). It’s the industrial revolution of food. By applying the same methodology that gave us the low-cost automobile, food costs are driven down. Instead of meat, automobiles, and televisions being luxury items, thanks to the factory model they are ubiquitous fixtures for the average American. Once meat heralded and marked festive occasions (an anniversary, a religious holiday, or a birthday). Now, hardly a day goes by that it doesn’t grace the plate of at least one meal.
Of course, animals and vegetative life are not the inanimate components of an automobile or television. We are finding that produce and meat raised in such a way comes at a cost. Sacrificed are flavor and the nutritive benefits that cannot be rushed but that can only be achieve with time, space, a quality diet, and the expertise of growers. And these factors add cost to the final product, but they also add inestimable worth.
Because our household has decided to eat qualitatively better food, we eat less meat. Meat is thus regaining in our household its ability to enhance a special occasion: a dinner with friends, a Sunday meal, a barbeque at a lakeside retreat.