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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Figuring Out the True Cost of Meat- Zero Food Waste Challenge

 Ever buy a cut of meat that seems so cheap, and yet... once you take a bite, you realize it's nearly all bone? Have you also heard it said that chicken breast is cheaper to get than any other meat because you're not paying for any bone weight, but wonder if this held true even with the cheapest meats, like necks and wings? Have you ever seen beans being sold by weight for more than chicken costs, and wondered why people say beans are cheaper?
Turkey gizzards... and beef goulash meat.
Continuing along the same lines as my starch experiment and my bean experiment, I've devised a chart to help you calculate just what percentage of the meat you're buying is left after cooking, after deboning, and after skinning

For this project, I used frozen meat mainly, but only noticed a significant difference between their frozen and defrosted weight in a few instances. For the meats like that, I included two lines on the chart, one figuring out calculations based on its frozen weight, and the other using the defrosted weight as the initial weight.
I'm sorry, but I was unable to get every single cut of meat for this experiment because of money, time, and availability near me. I just bought the types of meat I occasionally buy. If you want to know calculations for other meats, whether lamb, beef ribs or steaks, bacon or pork roast, venison, moose, rabbit, duck or frog, you'll have to figure that out on yout own.

Because I could only make the chart so wide, I had to shorten the headers in each column, so let me first give an explanation.

Type is self explanatory, Wt (kg) is it's initial weight. It's worth noting that some of the weights that I calculated were different than the listed weight on the package, but unless you have your own scale at the grocery store, there's not much you can do about mislabeled weight information. (None was too different, just off by 100 grams in one or two cases.)
Cost ($/lb) is the price of the meats in dollars per pound. I know that most of you think in these terms, which is why I gave the price in this denomination, even though I listed weights as grams. Ounces and pounds are just to confusing for me to deal with now. (I mean, how do you easily and quickly figure out 5.64 lbs is 5 pounds and ?? ounces? The metric system is so much simpler!) I listed the cheapest prices I can get for these when I hit up a sale, but sometimes they end up being more expensive than the price I listed, in which case, even I would need to use the calculations I've shared below to figure out what is cheapest.
Cooked Wt is how much it weighed once I cooked it. The cooking method for the necks, gizzards, goulash meat, and chicken carcass (part of the listed whole chicken) was boiling, the ground chicken and meat were cooked in a dry frying pan, beef brisket was first pan seared, and then cooked over a low flame in a dutch oven, and everything else was baked. I did season the meats in most cases (gizzards, necks, and ground meats were not seasoned) with salt, paprika, and garlic powder.
Wt- No Bone and Wt- No Skin were how much the meats weighed after I removed the bone (but including the skin), and after I removed the skin and bones. I included both weights, because I and my family chose to eat the skin (because it's what Traditional Food enthusiasts consider to be a healthy fat), yet I know that there is quite a large percentage of the population that choses to remove the skin.
% Cooked means what percentage of the original amount remained once the meat was cooked, % No Bone means what percentage of the original weight was left once it was deboned, and % No Skin means what percentage of the original was left when the skin and bone were removed.
Math- Cost, Cooked is how you can figure out the true cost for the meat you buy based on the prices in your area, by multiplying the local price by the decimal amount listed. The other Math labels are self explanatory.
All the way to the right of the chart are the final prices for the meats I bought based on the prices where I live.


Type
Wt 
(kg)
Cost ($/lb)
Cook-ed
Wt
Wt- No Bone

Wt- No Skin % Cook-ed

% No Bone % No Skin
Math- Cost, Cooked
Math-
Cost, No Bone
Math- Cost, No Skin
Cost Cook-ed
Cost De-boned
Cost Skinned
Turkey
Gizzard
0.808
$1.25
0.544
0.544
--
67.3%
--
--
Cost *1.49
--
--
$1.86
--
--
Turkey Neck
0.965
$1.00
0.735
0.355
--
76.2%
36.8%
--
Cost *1.31
Cost *2.72
--
$1.31
$2.72
--
Turkey Wings
1.025
$1.63
0.592
0.498
0.403
57.8%
48.6%
39.3%
Cost *1.73
Cost *2.06
Cost *2.55
$2.82
$3.36
$4.16
Turkey Drum-sticks
0.875
$2.38
0.469
0.412
0.365
53.6%
47.1%
41.7%
Cost *1.86
Cost *2.12
Cost *2.39
$4.42
$5.04
$5.69















Whole Chicken
1.693
$1.25
1.301
0.961
0.462
76.8%
56.8%
27.3%
Cost *1.30
Cost *1.76
Cost *2.39
$1.63
$2.20
$2.99
Chicken Wings
0.183
$0.75
0.145
0.090
0.065
79.2%
49.2%
35.5%
Cost *1.26
Cost *2.03
Cost *2.81
$0.95
$1.52
$2.10
Chicken Breast
0.413
$3.13
0.374
0.374
--
90.6%
--
--
Cost *1.10
--
--
$3.43
--
--
Chicken Thighs
0.359
$1.88
0.275
0.192
0.166
76.6%
53.5%
46.2%
Cost *1.30
Cost *1.86
Cost *2.16
$2.44
$3.50
$4.06
Chicken Drum-sticks
0.273
$2.50
0.223
0.140
0.116
81.7%
51.3%
42.5%
Cost *1.22
Cost *1.95
Cost *2.35
$3.05
$4.88
$5.88
Chicken Necks
0.056
$0.56
0.043
0.021
--
76.8%
37.5%
--
Cost *1.30
Cost *2.66
--
$0.73
$1.49
--
Ground Chicken (Frozen)
0.513
$3.13
0.332
--
--
64.7%
--
--
Cost *1.54
--
--
$4.82
--
--
Ground Chicken (Fresh)*
0.479
$3.13
0.332
--
--
69.3%
--
--
Cost *1.44
--
--
$4.50
--
--















Ground Beef (Frozen)
0.503
$4.38
0.304
--
--
60.4%
--
--
Cost *1.66
--
--
$7.27
--
--
Ground Beef (Fresh)*
0.470
$4.38
0.304
--
--
64.7%
--
--
Cost *1.55
--
--
$6.79
--
--

Beef Brisket (Frozen) 
1.134
$4.01
0.709
--
--
62.5%
--
--
Cost *1.60
--
--
$6.42
--
--

Beef Brisket (Fresh)*
1.047
$4.01
0.709
--
--
67.7%
--
--
Cost *1.48
--
--
$5.93
--
--

Beef Goulash (Frozen)
0.758
$5.51
0.451
--
--
59.5%
--
--
Cost *1.68
--
--
$9.26
--
--

Beef Goulash (Fresh)*
0.550
$5.51
0.451
--
--
82.0%
--
--
Cost *1.22
--
--
$6.72
--
--

Reading the Results. 
Ok, I know that that is a whole bunch of numbers, and for those of you not mathematically inclined, it might just make your head hurt. I spent at least 3 whole days (if not more) working on this chart, weighing, cooking, weighing, deboning, weighing, skinning, weighing, figuring out percentages, etc... I think I've had enough of numbers for a while... Or at least until the next experiment. To make things easier for you, I bolded the most important information.
To make it easier on your eyes, the order of prices from cheapest to most expensive, if you eat the skin, are:

Turkey wings- raw, and deboned.
Chicken Necks $1.49 
Chicken Wings $1.52
Turkey Gizzards $1.86
Whole Chicken $2.20
Turkey Necks $2.72
Turkey Wings $3.36
Chicken Breast $3.43
Chicken Thighs $3.50
Fresh Ground Chicken $4.50
Frozen Ground Chicken $4.82
Chicken Drumsticks $4.88
Turkey Drumsticks $5.04
Fresh Beef Brisket $5.93
Frozen Beef Brisket $6.42
Fresh Beef Goulash $6.72
Fresh Ground Beef $6.79
Frozen Ground Beef $7.27 
Frozen Beef Goulash $9.26.

If you don't eat chicken skin, the order of prices, from least expensive to most expensive is:
Chicken Necks $1.49
Turkey Gizzards $1.86
Chicken Wings $2.10
Turkey Necks $2.72
Whole Chicken $2.99
Chicken Breast $3.43
Chicken Thighs $4.06
Turkey Wings $4.16
Fresh Ground Chicken $4.50
Frozen Ground Chicken $4.82
Turkey Drumsticks $5.69
Chicken Drumsticks $5.88
Fresh Beef Brisket $5.93
Frozen Beef Brisket $6.42
Fresh Beef Goulash $6.72
Fresh Ground Beef $6.79
Frozen Ground Beef $7.27
Frozen Beef Goulash $9.26

Though not included on the original chart, chicken gizzards beat them all at approximately 1.12¢ per pound. (I didn't test out the chicken gizzards when doing this experiment, but, having experience with them, I know they work similarly to turkey gizzards, so I assumed they have approximately the same percent left once cooked. I just plugged in the chicken gizzard price with the variables and got 1.12¢.)

So what do you learn from this chart? 
Firstly, that you're paying for a lot of water when you buy frozen goulash meat. (Even the packaging claimed so, but they claimed it had 10% water. I discovered that it was really 28%!) Ouch! That made that absolutely the most expensive thing on the chart, even though it had no bones! I always thought it was a bargain, seeing as I was paying for "straight meat".
I also thought that ground beef was a relatively good deal, but now I see that it's more expensive than brisket round these parts! I'll touch on ground beef a little bit more, later in the post.
Secondly, that you end up paying a lot more for your meat if you're tossing the skin. A whole dollar more per pound, in the case of chicken drumsticks, and 75 cents more per pound for turkey wings and whole chickens. Skin is not absent of nutrition- I'll touch on that also a little later on in the post.

Thirdly, even though wings and necks are very bony, surprisingly, they still worked out to be some of the cheapest per pound, even once they were deboned!

As I thought, for the price I pay on sale, whole chickens really are a great deal, even once deboned.
So, as legend has it, are chicken breasts really the cheapest cut of meat because they're bone free? Absolutely not! Gizzards, necks, wings, and whole chickens are cheaper options, but yes, chicken breasts are still cheaper than thighs or drumsticks.
I also was quite surprised that ground chicken was the most expensive type there was- I always thought that getting ground chicken was a good deal! Again, I'll touch on this a bit more later on.

But what about the nutritional content of the meat? Are certain cuts of meat higher in protein than others? If you're just looking at the price of the meat, it's hard to know which cuts get you the most money's worth of protein.
I calculated the price of protein in this chart below. The chart is pretty self explanatory. Note that the cost of the protein is in cents per gram, as in you pay a nickle for each gram of protein in ground beef.



Orig Wt
Orig Cost
($/lb)
De-boned Cost ($/lb)
Skinned Cost ($/lb)
% Protein (with skin)
% Protein (skinned)
Protein Cost (with skin) (¢/g)
Protein Cost (skinned) (¢/g)
Math- Protein Cost (with skin)
Math- Protein Cost ( skinned)
Turkey Gizzards
0.808
$1.25
$1.86
--
21.7%
--
1.89¢
--
Original price *1.51

--
Turkey Necks
0.965
$1.00
$2.72
--
27.0%
--
2.22¢
--
Original price *2.22
--
Turkey Wings
1.025
$1.63
$3.36
$4.16
27.5%
30.0%
2.69¢
3.05¢
Original price *1.65
Original price *1.87
Turkey Drumsticks
0.875
$2.38
$5.04
$5.69
27.8%
29.2%
3.99¢
4.28¢
Original price *1.68
Original price *1.80











Chicken Gizzards*
0.808
$0.75
$1.12
--
30.3%
--
0.81¢
--
Original price *1.08
--
Whole Chicken
1.693
$1.25
$2.20
$2.99
15.6%
--
3.10¢
--
Original price *2.48
--
Chicken Wings
0.183
$0.75
$1.52
$2.10
26.9%
30.1%
1.25¢
1.54¢
Original price *1.66
Original price *2.05
Chicken Breast
0.413
$3.13
$3.43
--
31.0%
--
2.44¢
--
Original price *1.1
--
Chicken Thighs
0.359
$1.88
$3.50
$4.06
25.0%
25.9%
3.08¢
3.44¢
Original price *1.64
Original price *1.83
Chicken Drumstick
0.273
$2.50
$4.88
$5.88
27.0%
28.8%
3.98¢
4.50¢
Original price *1.59
Original price *1.80
Chicken Necks
0.056
$0.56
$1.49
--
24.0%
--
1.37¢
--
Original price *2.44
--
Ground Chicken (Frozen)
0.513
$3.13
$4.82
--
17.0%
--
6.23¢
--
Original price *1.99
--
Ground Chicken (Fresh)
0.479
$3.13
$4.50
--
17.0%
--
5.82¢
--
Original price *1.86
--











Ground Beef (Frozen)
0.503
$4.38
$7.27
--
29.2%
--
5.48¢
--
Original price *1.25
--
Ground Beef (Fresh)
0.470
$4.38
$6.79
--
29.2%
--
5.08¢
--
Original price *1.16
--
Beef Brisket (Frozen)
1.134
$4.01
$6.42
--
29.7%
--
4.77¢
--
Original price *1.19
--
Beef Brisket (Fresh)
1.047
$4.01
$5.93
--
29.7%
--
4.77¢
--
Original price *1.19
--
Beef Goulash (Frozen)
0.758
$5.51
$9.26
--
29.7%
--
6.83¢
--
Original price *1.24
--
Beef Goulash (Fresh)
0.550
$5.51
$6.72
--
29.7%
--
4.96¢
--
Original price *0.90

Reading the Results:
Again, lots of numbers, so I bolded the most important parts.
To make greater ease in reading, I made a list of the meats in order of least expensive to most expensive.

If you're eating the skin, for each gram of protein, you're paying:
Chicken gizzards 0.81¢
Chicken wings 1.25¢
Chicken necks 1.37¢
Turkey gizzards 1.89¢
Turkey necks 2.22¢
Chicken breast 2.44¢
Turkey wings 2.69¢
Chicken thighs 3.08¢
Whole chicken 3.10¢
Chicken drumsticks 3.98¢
Turkey drumsticks 3.99¢
Beef brisket (fresh and frozen) 4.77¢
Beef goulash (fresh) 4.96¢
Ground beef (fresh) 5.08¢
Ground beef (frozen) 5.48¢
Ground chicken (fresh) 5.82¢
Ground chicken (frozen) 6.23¢
Beef goulash (frozen) 6.83¢

However, if you're not eating the skin, you're paying this many cents for each gram of protein:
Chicken gizzards 0.81¢
Chicken necks 1.37¢
Chicken wings 1.54¢
Turkey gizzards 1.89¢
Turkey necks 2.22¢
Chicken breast 2.44¢
Turkey wings 3.05¢
Whole chicken 3.10¢
Chicken thighs 3.44¢
Turkey drumsticks 4.28¢
Chicken drumsticks 4.50¢
Beef brisket (fresh and frozen) 4.77¢
Beef goulash (fresh) 4.96¢
Ground beef (fresh) 5.08¢
Ground beef (frozen) 5.48¢
Ground chicken (fresh) 5.82¢
Ground chicken (frozen) 6.23¢
Beef goulash (frozen) 6.83¢

You'll note that not eating the skin will, in some cases, make you be paying a penny more per gram.


So what do you learn from this chart? 
For the most part, the meats that are cheaper when cooked are also cheaper sources of protein, and more expensive when cooked are more expensive for protein. The two main exceptions to this rule were whole chickens and ground chicken, neither of which are good sources of protein.

"Everyone knows" that meat is the "best source of protein", because you get the most protein per bite. So how do these meat prices compare to bean prices in terms of cents per gram of protein? Aside for chicken gizzards, nearly every meat type cost more per gram of protein than dry beans. (And as far as the gizzards are concerned, broadbeans are cheaper per gram of protein.) I'll do a more thorough comparison between the two protein sources along with other proteins when I do my "Figuring Out the True Cost of Proteins" post.


Ground Meat and Chicken
Now as to the ground chicken and beef- these are some of the most expensive meats. However... keep in mind that you're able to stretch ground meat and chicken a lot farther than you're able to stretch the cheaper drumsticks and thighs. One pound of ground chicken or beef made into meatballs will feed more people than 1 pound of chicken drumsticks.
In most cases, you can stretch ground beef or chicken by mixing it with nearly 50% TVP (soy flakes) or ground seitan, both of which are really cheap. By doing so, you're essentially lowering the cost of the meat by 50%, making it not a terrible choice economically, though still not the cheapest.  (Where I live, nearly all the frozen ground meat and chicken is mixed with TVP, so even if you think you're getting a good deal, you're paying for a lot of soy, not meat.) The best option really would be to get a meat grinder and grind your own gizzards or chicken breast to make cheaper ground meat, and then stretch that with seitan or TVP.

Chicken Skin
Ah, yes, the devil. Or at least that's what people make it out to be. From the way people talk, you'd assume that chicken skin is a poisonous, nutrition free food, only serving to toxify your body and prepare you for an early grave via heart disease. *Insert evil laugh here.*
I just wanted to point out that chicken skin weighs a lot. By tossing it in the trash, you're basically throwing money in the garbage, because, by doing so, you're ending up paying a lot more money for your chicken or turkey or whatever other meat you're getting.
Ahhh--- but hey Penny, it can't really have any nutrition in it, can it?
Oh yes, it does! Perhaps less nutritional than other parts of the bird, but it's not the nutritionally empty food people make it out to be. In fact, it's more nutritious than some other foods people seem to have no issue consuming.

Chicken Skin vs Canola Oil- the showdown.
How many people think twice before they consume something with canola oil? Canola oil, as far as this nutritional analysis shows, is nutritionally a big zero. Zero grams of protein, zero vitamins, zero minerals. And yet people have no problem consuming canola oil.
Chicken skin, on the other hand, is not a zero. There's some vitamin A, calcium, iron, and selenium. (And before you mention how small the percent daily value, remember that whatever it has is more than the absolute zero canola oil has.)
But wait- did you notice the protein content in chicken skin? It's 11.4 grams of protein in every 56 grams of chicken skin. For those without immediate access to a calculator, that's 20% protein, no paltry sum! Ground chicken and whole chickens have less protein, but you don't consider them to be empty calories, do you?

And in the case of heart disease, well, the jury's out on that one. (Ok, not out. Diametrically opposed, in fact. For more reading, Saturated fat is good for you- 1 and Saturated fat is good for you- 2 vs Saturated fats are bad for you.)
I just wanted to share that while writing this article, I called up my dad, an American Heart Association Fellow, a board certified cardiologist, and a lipid specialist. He is anti natural to the extreme, and toes the line with what the medical establishment says. The conversation went something like this:
"Hello Dad."
"Hello Penny."
"I have a question for you. Is chicken skin bad for you? Will you get heart disease if you have chicken with skin once or twice a week."
"No, you won't get heart disease from that. If you have a ton of it, you will, but once or twice a week is fine."
"So wait, Dad, I can tell my readers that they can have chicken skin without worrying about it?"
"Yea. Sure. Oh wait. Just tell them that for people with heart disease, it might be a better idea for them to remove the skin."
"But what about people without heart disease?"
"Yea, they can have the chicken skin. Just not every day."

And that's from someone who doesn't sway from what the conventional medical rules say, and yes, specializes in heart disease and cholesterol problems. So if he's giving the go-ahead, I feel totally and completely comfortable with saying "Eat it! If you're tossing it, that's wasteful!"

Oh- but are you grossed out by the idea of eating skin? Hrmmm, think about it. How is skin any more gross than a chicken's leg. Foot. Calf. Breast. Stomach. Liver. Beef cheek. Tongue. They're alllll organs. You're eating an animal regardless. What's the big deal if its one organ or another?

So yes, that's the connection between this meat cost analysis and the Zero Food Waste Challenge.

So, what meat do you usually buy? Do you think this chart will change how you look at different prices of meat? Will you actually use the aforementioned calculations to help figure out the true cost of meat and the price you're paying per gram of protein?
And... do you throw out the skin, or do you eat it?


How did you cut back on your food waste this week? 
Link up to any post you've written that is even remotely related to cutting back your food wastage. Follow blog carnival manners and link back here. Please, link to a specific post on your blog, not to your blog's main page. Thanks!





Linking up to Fight Back Friday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Friday,.

3 comments:

  1. thanks for this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have been wanting to do this for a long time.. Thanks so much.. I made some constants that can be used in the store to compare boned, skinned with the price per lb or Kg.. Just multiply the price per lb or kg by these numbers to get an estimated price per lb or kg cooked, boned and skinned... I will start with the turkey gizzard and just give the numbers in order down your chart.. X 2.3, 2.7, 4.1, 2.4, 2.4, 2.8, (1.1 chicken breast) 2.2, 2.4, 2.6, 1.5, 1.4, 1.7, 1.6, 5.7, 1.5, 1.7, 1.2... If your buying chicken breast w/skin and that little bone then you multiply the price per lb or kg on the package by 1.1 and you get the real price per lb or kg of edible meat... I did it a few times before I figured out what I was doing and I rounded up to only one decimal to make it easy for us IN THE HEAD adders.. Hope I did it right.. haha.. Next time I go shopping I am taking my multipliers.. Thanks again!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Back again.. I made a mistake on the Brisket.. It is 1.6 not 5.7...
    Also for the skin on items, turkey wing X 2.1, Drum X2.1, Whole chicken X1.8, Chicken wings X2, thighs X1.9, and chicken drums X2... Since I read on and found out the good news about chicken skin... Thanks again...

    ReplyDelete

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