With the beef prices heading towards an extreme high over the festive season, we look at simple ways you can absorb the high prices on your menu.
After speaking to a number of feedlots, it seems that there are a few factors involved in creating the perfect storm of price hikes. Maize prices have skyrocketed, so the cost of feeding cattle has gone up dramatically. This isn’t helped by a high demand and shortage of weaners (young cattle that are raised to a certain age and then sold to feedlots) which has driven up prices. Botswana’s weaners that were once coming to South Africa are now going to Zimbabwe and a number of South African farmers have moved from using their land for cattle to using it for game, as it is easier and cheaper to run. These are just a few of the factors involved in driving up beef prices, but there’s no doubt that the prices slated for December are some of the highest prices that have been seen. Customers still want the option of beef, however, and are unlikely to pay exorbitant prices for the luxury. Chefs are going to have to be very clever in still offering dishes with beef that don’t break the bank.
Chef Nicky Gibbs, in partnership with Braeside Butchery to provide a range of marinated and parcooked grass-fed meat products, let us know a few of the ways in which chefs can absorb the costs of high beef prices on their menu
• Use cheaper cuts of meat such as flank, short rib, neck and topside – they might need a bit of slow-cooking, but they are just as flavourful as traditional cuts of meat.
• Get creative and make a variety of sausages in all flavours. If you don’t have the capacity, ask your butcher to make them up for you.
• Get into nose-to-tail eating and put offal dishes such as traditional South African dishes on the menu.
• Instead of blocking meat into 200g portions, ask for 180g portions and don’t put your prices up. Just make sure to notify your guests. Though it’s just a small mouthful, it will make a huge difference over time and will be sustainable.
• Plated meals are cheaper than buffets as there is less wastage.
• If you have a good relationship with your butcher or supplier, they can assist in maintaining prices or offering you deals.
• Start cooking with interesting ingredients that fill guests up, such as Bulgar wheat, barley, black rice, red rice, pastas, risotto, lentils, quinoa and cous cous
• When cooking with grass fed beef, there is less shrinkage so you get more bang for your buck. Grass Fed beef also needs a lot less seasoning, so you save on seasoning and sauce.
• In hunting season, use venison – it keeps the menu interesting and varied, as well as offering a suitable substitute for beef.