Why Bison Meat is so Expensive
While we might not be able to explain market driving forces to account for basic costs, we can offer some understanding of the end product costs.
Let's start with Grain-Fed Wholesale prices, animals from both the United States and Canada. According to the USDA Market News, Monthly Bison Report for July 2018, the average hanging hot weight (HHW) of a 24-30 month old bison bull was 651 pounds which brought an average of $489.69 per 100 pound weight (CWT). This translates into a wholesale cost of $3,208.52 per animal.
Since the amount of actual packaged saleable meat would be about 300-320 pounds, the average wholesale cost would be $10.02 per pound of bison meat, excluding the costs of processing, labels, and other packaging and marketing costs. Considering processing costs alone may run from $0.55 to well over $1.00 per HHW which would add (at $0.55) an additional $358.00 to the wholesale cost bringing the total cost to $11.14.
If you are paying less than $10.00 or $11.00 a pound for bison meat, you need to think about what you are actually buying. It is not economically feasible to sell a product at retail below wholesale prices unless that product is outdated or otherwise inferior.
A !000 pound 20-30 month old bull will sell every day for $3,000.00. Assuming 300 pounds of processed meat from this animal, there is $10.00 per pound value in the meat without any additional expenses or marketing efforts. Thus, as will wholesale, we are starting at an initial cost (investment) of $10.00 per pound.
Ignoring transportation costs (200 miles round trip) to the processing plant, there is a $45.00 kill fee, a $150.00 USDA inspection fee, a $0.65 per pound HHW for processing (assumed 560 pound HHW), and a $0.15 labelling charge for pound packaged meat (estimated at 300 pounds). This amounts to an estimated slaughter and processing cost of approximately $604.00. This brings our total investment to $3,604.00 or, assuming 300 pounds of processed meat, a total cost of $12.01 a pound.
These costs do not include our infrastructure investments, feed costs, and overall farm operating expenditures. Adding these costs and the cost to produce a pound of bison meat is well over $12.00 a pound.
Further increasing costs is the fact that animals on a pure grass diet have much lower weight gains than those fed grains and grain by-products. Hence, our certified grass-fed and grass-finished animals will weigh less at slaughter and yield less saleable meat, adding to the total production costs.
You may find bison meat for sale for less but you need to question what you are buying as a product cannot be sold for less than it cost to produce.