Why Are Oxtails So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Whether stewed or braised, oxtail is nothing short of satisfying. However, you may have noticed that oxtail has become increasingly pricey in the last couple of years.

If you are astounded by the price of oxtails at supermarkets and restaurants, you will want to know the reasons behind this sudden inflation. I looked into it, and here is what I found!

Why Are Oxtails So Expensive?

Oxtails are so expensive because they account for a small portion of cows, making it difficult to supply commercially and meet growing global demands. Each oxtail weighs around six to seven pounds, further limiting market availability. Additionally, oxtail requires a lot of time and resources to prepare, which can significantly drive up the cost.

If you are interested in learning more about the factors that make oxtails a rare commodity and why the market for oxtails is growing worldwide, keep on reading!

1. Oxtails Come In Small Portions

Oxtails—-which usually refers to the tails of cows, not oxen—-are only a small part of cows.

In fact, most oxtails weigh a maximum of seven pounds, which can be just enough for a single dish.

Additionally, oxtails are not all meat; depending on the quality of the oxtail, a larger percentage of it could consist of skin and bones.

As a result, the already small portions of oxtail meat become smaller, and meeting supplier demands will necessitate more oxtails, which drives up the price.

2. Producing High-Quality Oxtail Is Costly

Not all oxtails have the same quality and quantity of meat, skin, and bones. Depending on how the cattle are reared, some may produce oxtails that suppliers are unwilling to buy.

As such, farmers put extra effort into improving the diet of cows and ensuring that the small portion of oxtail they harvest are as rich in meat as possible.

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Therefore, with the intensive labor and superior feed necessary to produce choice oxtail, farmers have no choice but to sell it at a higher price.

3. Bulk Pricing Does Not Apply To Oxtail

Unlike other cuts of meat, oxtails are so limited that bulk pricing is not possible. That said, since oxtails are highly valued for being rare and delicious, they are often sold by the pound.

So, without the option to sell oxtails in bulk, farmers have to ensure that they are getting the best possible price for each pound of oxtail they produce, hence the high cost.

4. Oxtails Experienced A Sudden Rise In Popularity

Oxtails were not always popular in the United States and Europe. In fact, oxtail was viewed in these places as food for the poor since the tail was considered leftover meat.

However, with the rise of globalization and travel, oxtail recipes from Spain, China, West Africa, Indonesia, and South Korea made their way to the rest of the world.

Soon enough, more and more people sought after oxtail dishes in restaurants, and the limited supply could not meet the surge of demands, making oxtails expensive.

5. Some Oxtails Are Better Than Others

Oxtail is expensive in general, but you will find that some oxtails come at a higher price than others. Mainly, this is because some farms produce higher quality oxtails.

By higher quality, this means that the oxtails are large and rich in meat. Usually, buyers prefer dark and clean meat with fats that are creamy white.

Naturally, more suppliers will be fighting over these high-quality oxtails, and with more interested buyers comes the prospect of bigger profits.

To make the most out of each sale, farmers can increase the price of the oxtails and sell them to the highest bidder, who then inflates the price of oxtails for consumers.

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6. Low-Quality Oxtail Makes High-Quality Oxtail Rarer

6.  Low-Quality Oxtail Makes High-Quality Oxtail Rarer

When low-quality oxtails saturate the market, high-quality oxtails become even rarer, and this occurrence can trigger a sudden increase in oxtail prices.

After all, supermarkets and restaurants can build a reputation for providing consumers with the finest oxtails, and this means that they will invest more in securing the best oxtails.

Then, once suppliers have procured the best oxtails in the market, they will automatically cover their expenses by selling the oxtail at a much higher price.

7. Butchering Oxtail Takes Skill

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to butchering oxtail than just cutting off the cow’s tail. Once that part is done, it takes immense skill and effort to carve out the oxtail meat.

Therefore, when butchers lack training and experience, a large percentage of the oxtail meat can go to waste.

As such, hiring the best butchers is essential to making the most of each oxtail.

However, butchers who deal expertly with oxtails demand higher salaries. Naturally, supermarkets and restaurants mark up their oxtails and oxtail dishes to cover their wages.

8. Oxtail Is Shipped In Refrigerated Containers

Since oxtails are so rare, numerous precautions are taken to ensure that they arrive at their destinations fresh.

That said, this can only be done by transporting oxtails in refrigerated containers.

Further, when these types of containers are used, the cost of distribution increases, and so does the oxtail’s selling price.

9. Shipping Fees Across States & Countries Are Costly

Oxtails are in high demand worldwide, meaning oxtails can be shipped not just to another state but also to another continent.

Moreover, depending on the distance between the country of origin and the destination, the oxtails can incur hefty shipping costs added to the final price.

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10. Oxtails Take A Lot Of Time To Cook

Oxtails need to be cooked for at least two hours. However, producing the best-tasting meat and marrow normally extends the process to three hours.

Also, even when oxtails are cooked with only a few basic ingredients, the extended cooking time increases the resources and effort necessary to produce a single oxtail dish.

Therefore, these factors are considered when pricing oxtail dishes, and the results often lead to staggering sums.

11. Oxtails Are A Sign Of Decadence

Like other rare commodities, oxtail has become a sign of decadence in numerous countries. With that, maintaining the high cost of oxtails is another way to uphold this reputation.

Additionally, the more expensive oxtails are, the greater customers’ satisfaction because they know that they indulged in a piece of rare high-quality meat.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why Wagyu is so expensive, why salmon is so expensive, and why sablefish is so expensive.

Conclusion

Oxtails used to be associated with poverty and even slavery. However, as oxtail dishes became popular in Western countries, so did the cost of oxtails.

Since oxtails are limited, it is impossible to meet the growing demands globally, which is especially true for high-quality oxtails that are valued for their meat content.

Alongside the butchering, storing, and distributing costs of oxtails, it is hardly a surprise that oxtails fetch a high price upon reaching supermarkets and restaurants.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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