Australia is a meat-loving nation. Yes, there are those who don’t eat meat, but there are many more people who choose to bite into a bit of beef or put the pork on their fork.
When it comes to purchasing your meat though, it can be quite costly. According to some butchers, that’s because Australians are staunch supporters of the tenderness of their meat, but if you are looking to save you need to look more broadly.
One butcher has offered six tips for spending less on meat.
1. Eat less meat and eat more vegetables
Sounds obvious, but a simple reduction in your meat intake will undoubtedly lead to savings. Meat is often one of the most expensive items on your shopping list, and it’s also the one you are likely to over-indulge in.
“We eat far more meat than our bodies require, impacting our health as well as the resources that sustain the animals,” butcher Adam Danforth says.
Danforth says when you are considering portion sizes choose between 115g and 170g. He says you can fill the extra space on your plate with vegetables, which will provide you with more nutrients and allow you to feel fuller for longer.
2. If you can purchase the whole animal, do it
Smaller animals like poultry or rabbit are easily purchased from the butcher and can be butchered at home.
Larger animals like cattle, pigs and sheep can be purchased as a whole, half or quarter carcass, which you can ask your butcher to cut into smaller, manageable and more recognisable cuts for home storage.
“Who animals offer an opportunity to work with foundational cooking components that are otherwise unavailable or more expensive when purchasing stand-alone,” Danforth says. “This includes bones and fat, two of the most important ingredients in nutrient rich and flavourful cooking.”
You can turn the bones into stock and render the fat, both of which Danforth says are worth the time.
3. Skip the tenderloin and avoid the middle meats
Tenderloin is regarded as being the most expensive cut (pound for pound, says Danforth) and it also the least flavourful part of an animal.
As for the middle meats, “the span of meat along the spine from somewhere around the fifth rib to the pelvis,” says Danforth. That accounts for cuts like rib, centre-cut and loin chops for pork; the rib eye, porthouse, T-bone and New York strip steaks for beef; and the rib, rack, loin and saddle in sheep.
4. Braise and roast
Danforth says those cuts that have had to ‘work the hardest’ are the ones that will taste the best. Things like shanks, hocks, brisket, breasts, drumsticks and the like are the cuts of meat that break down during cooking time and provide sauces that enrich any dish. If you cook vegetables within the dish there will be more nutrients.
An additional benefit is that these cuts of meat are often less expensive, so if you don’t know how to braise and roast you might want to learn.
5. Buy older or dual-purpose animals
“This can be a bit more challenging to find,” says Danforth.
He says older animals tend to be avoided because of the stigma that they offer poor texture and taste. However, if the animal has been given the right conditions it could be a better product than a younger counterpart, which would also make it more affordable.
Dual-purpose animals include livestock that has been raised for reasons other than meat exclusivity, so dairy, breeding etc.
The reason these are more difficult to source is because it often means you have to go straight to the source, so bypass the butcher and get to the farm gate. If that’s not an option for you…
6. Find a knowledgeable butcher, and trust them
You can learn a lot just by talking to your butcher, including whether or not there are cheaper options that will yield similar results to suggested meats in recipes.
Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher about cheap cuts they might recommend, as well as what guidance they might offer in the preparation of such meat.