If you want to enjoy a nice oxtail stew or another recipe, then you may discover that oxtail is expensive.
It usually sells for around $10 or more per pound.
Considering that oxtail isn’t that much meat to begin with, the price may surprise you.
Here are 10 reasons oxtail is so expensive.
Why Is Oxtail So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Small Cuts Of Meat
Unlike other cuts of meat, oxtail comes from a small portion of the animal.
Butchers take the meat from the top part of the tail where it merges with the rest of the animal.
Since there’s only a small amount of it per animal, the supply is always low.
Oxtail happens to be a beloved meal for many different people across the world.
In certain European and Asian countries, it’s almost cultural.
With so little of it to go around, the price for it skyrockets.
Compare this to the other types of cut meat.
Cows and other bovine species have a lot of meat on their bodies.
It enables butchers to strip down several pounds of meat which can go to various buyers.
Because there’s a larger supply of it, the price isn’t as high.
Oxtail, on the other hand, only has enough meat for a few buyers.
Sometimes there’s only enough for one buyer.
If you consider a cow-to-buyer ratio, you’ll need several cows to make up for the demand.
That isn’t possible.
As a result, there’s a limited supply which drives up the price.
2. Not from Oxen
Traditionally, oxtail came from an ox.
Those who had access to oxen would butcher them and then harvest their meat.
That includes the oxtail.
Oxen were part of the Old World in which they served as work animals.
When an ox started to falter in its old age, its owners would slaughter it for food.
Since they couldn’t waste any meat in those times, they ate everything.
Today, almost any type of bovine species can produce oxtail.
Oxen, known as steers today, are still sometimes used, but they’re also used for other purposes.
Most commonly, oxtail comes from cows and other types of bovines.
The reason for this is that it allows butchers to use the entire cow.
Otherwise, they’re unable to use that part of the meat which is wasteful.
This makes oxtail expensive because it requires more effort on the part of farmers to make a high-quality oxtail.
They need their male cattle, specifically, to be healthy to have enough meat on their tail to be worth harvesting and selling.
Since it’s not limited to only steers, that means farmers need to invest in all their bovines.
That costs money.
The cost of raising cattle reflects in the price.
3. Not Sold In Bulk
Another reason oxtail is expensive is that it’s not sold in bulk.
Other types of meat come in large enough quantities that they can have a bulk sale.
That isn’t the case with oxtail because there’s so little of it to begin with.
If a customer wants a lot of oxtail meat, then they’re going to have to pay for each pound as it is.
There isn’t enough spare oxtail meat to go around to make bulk pricing possible.
Since customers can’t buy in bulk, there’s always a limited supply available.
That results in a higher price on the meat.
4. Rise In Popularity
Oxtail wasn’t a popular choice of meat in the United States for a long time.
Even in certain European countries, oxtail meat had a reputation for being part of the “leftovers” from an animal.
It was a type of food that went to poorer classes instead.
Even in the United States, oxtail has a history with slavery.
It was part of the scraps that the slaves were given to eat.
They’d go on to turn it into soul food with spicy stews and soups that many people have since come to love.
However, as the years passed, they discovered new ways to cook the meat that came from an ox’s tail.
They discovered that the meat could have an incredible tenderness and intense flavor that the other cuts of meat couldn’t replicate.
Oxtail dishes started to show up in restaurants, and then in high-end restaurants.
Now it’s considered a delicacy in many countries.
Since it’s now a popular type of meat, demand for it has increased over the years.
Since supply is still limited, it makes the price for oxtail meat expensive.
5. Nose-To-Tail Eating
There’s been a rise in interest among chefs and ecologically conscious individuals to partake in the nose-to-tail eating philosophy.
This philosophy believes that an individual should eat every part of the animal that is edible for a human.
It’s an attempt to reduce food waste.
Since a lot of waste goes into the production and manufacture of meat, a way to help reduce its carbon footprint is to ensure that they use every part of the animal.
That’s also led to an increase in the demand for oxtail meat.
Besides being juicy and tender, it’s a part of the animal that previously went to waste.
If no one bought it, then the suppliers would get rid of it.
Those who follow the nose-to-tail eating philosophy have increased the demand for oxtail meat.
Chefs use it in their restaurants.
Individuals cook it in their own homes.
The philosophy has driven more people to buy oxtail when there’s already a limited supply.
That results in a higher price for oxtail meat for everyone.
6. Fine Dining
Thanks to its rise in popularity, oxtail meat has made its way to the fine dining circuit.
High-end restaurants serve oxtail recipes at incredibly high prices.
Since oxtail meat is now served in high-end restaurants as part of the fine dining experience, it now carries with it a reputation for being fancy.
It’s on the same level as other fine dining dishes like caviar and lobster.
Its limited supply only adds to its intrigue.
Not every high-end restaurant is going to be able to serve oxtail if they can’t get their hands on the meat.
That exclusivity makes it even more appealing.
Thanks to its presence in fine dining, many consider oxtail meat a luxury.
It comes with luxury pricing.
7. Long Preparation
While cooking oxtail isn’t too difficult, it does take time.
Preparation for certain oxtail meat dishes can take anywhere from two to five hours.
Since it takes a long time to cook, it costs more to cook it.
A kitchen uses more energy to keep it cooking.
A chef’s wages go up because they need to work longer on it.
There’s also the technical skill that’s required to cook oxtail at its best.
When slow-cooked, oxtail blends meat with its marrow.
The result is a succulent and tender slice of meat that is wholly unique unto itself.
The very best chefs know how to make the best oxtail dishes.
They don’t come cheap.
High-end restaurants, in particular, will pay their chefs a considerable amount of money if they know to prepare and cook oxtail meat.
The cost of their abilities is also reflected in the expensive price of oxtail meat.
8. Butchering Expenses
Butchering oxtail isn’t as easy as butchering the rest of the cow.
The oxtail meat comes from an area that’s difficult to carve.
It’s also difficult to harvest all the meat in that area.
If suppliers want to get the most meat out of a cow, then they need to hire skilled butchers who have experience handling that type of meat.
Butchers also need certain tools to carve out the meat from that enclosed area.
These factors cost money.
The better the butcher, the higher their salary will be.
As a result, the price of meat increases since suppliers need to cover their processing costs.
Food tends to go through cycles of popularity.
When a certain type of food is trending, then it becomes more expensive.
That’s the case with oxtail.
Much like the sushi and snail craze, oxtail is currently trending among society.
To be able to eat oxtail at high-end restaurants or cook it at dinner parties gives you brownie points in society.
Thanks to social media having a heavy influence on society, more people than ever can spread the “cool” factor of eating oxtail.
They post pictures of their dishes on Instagram and share recipes with one another.
Others looking to join the craze also order and eat oxtail.
This results in an increased demand for oxtail meat.
With supply already low and minimal, it drives up the price of the meat.
10. Shipping Costs
The cost to grow, process, and ship out oxtail also makes it expensive.
Some suppliers ship the meat out to China to be processed.
They’ll process it and send it back to the suppliers who can ship it out and sell it.
Others who process their meat locally still face expensive shipping costs.
They need to place their processed meat in refrigerated shipping containers.
Then they ship it across the country.
The further away a store or restaurant is from the supplier, the more expensive the shipping is going to be.
That’s because it takes more energy and fuel to deliver the meat and keep it cool.
The drivers also need their wages paid.
There are also weigh stations, toll booths, and other fees associated with shipping and traveling across state borders.
The supplier needs to pay for all those costs to deliver the oxtail meat to its destinations.
If fuel costs or energy costs become more expensive, then oxtail is going to be more expensive.
How To Save Money On Oxtail
If you want to enjoy the delicacy of oxtail meat, then there are a few ways you can save money.
Follow these tips to save money on oxtail.
1. Buy Low-Quality Meat
Like any type of cut of meat, oxtail meat has differences in its quality.
Sometimes it comes from the fact that the meat wasn’t good to begin with.
A sickly cow or a malnourished one can yield low-quality meat.
Sometimes the meat just comes out poor.
It may not have enough fat to give it flavor.
The meat, itself, may be tough.
Whatever the reason, if the meat is low-quality, you can expect a lower price on it.
2. Asian And European Stores
Another way to save money is to stop by your local Asian or European store.
Because oxtail is often served in those countries, they tend to buy large amounts of it at a time.
They know that their customers are going to buy it.
American stores don’t buy as much oxtail.
That’s because people don’t typically buy it at the store.
They only order oxtail meals from the restaurant.
Since Asian and European stores target buyers who make oxtail recipes at home, they buy a large amount.
The result is a lower price overall.
American stores have a higher price since they only supply a small amount of it.
If you need to buy oxtail, then you’ll want to visit your local Asian and International stores.
3. Make A Stew Or Soup
If you want to make oxtail less expensive, then you need to make it last longer.
That can be difficult to do when you don’t have a lot of meat initially.
The key is to use the meat in a stew or soup.
This allows you to use other ingredients, like vegetables, to make the meals more filling without relying solely on the meat.
You need to treat oxtail like a side rather than as the main ingredient.
In doing so, you can make large pots of stews and soups that can last for an entire week.
Instead of needing to buy several pounds of oxtail for the entire week, you only need to buy a pound for a soup or stew.
You’ll have plenty of leftovers which are enjoyable to eat and save you money.
4. Buy From The Local Butcher
Another great way to save money on oxtail is to find your local independent butcher.
Before oxtail became popular, butchers would often toss oxtail and other undesirable meats into the scrap bin.
It’d find use in various dishes, or they’d send it to the nearby dog food company.
Because oxtail wasn’t as desired then, butchers sold them cheap.
You may be able to find a local butcher who is still willing to give you an affordable price on their meat.
That’s because you can skip a lot of the processing that goes into mass-produced meat.
Since the meat is fresh, it’s cheaper.
Some butchers may be aware of how oxtail is trending at the moment and ask for a high price.
However, you can find a few who are willing to negotiate the price.
It can save you a few dollars, at the very least, which can add up if you eat oxtail frequently.
5. Buy During the Summer
Oxtail tends to become very popular during the winter months.
That’s because it’s the base for many filling and hearty stews.
During colder months, people naturally want food that is warm and filling.
Oxtail stew is a natural choice.
The demand for oxtail tends to increase during the colder months.
If you want to save money, then you should consider stocking up on oxtail meat during the summer.
It’s during these months when the demand is going to be stable rather than increased.
You’ll be able to buy it at a standard price rather than an increased, seasonal price.
6. Substitute With Other Types of Meat
You can sometimes get away with using other types of meat in place of oxtail.
If you find that you can’t afford the expensive cost of oxtail, then you may want to consider using a substitution.
One of the most popular is beef neck.
As its name might suggest, the meat comes from the cow’s neck.
It’s not as tender or flavorful as oxtail, but it has the same meaty and hearty quality.
It’s also cheaper.
Another substitute is veal.
Veal tail is very similar to oxtail in that it’s tender and juicy.
The problem is that it’s also smaller than the meat you’d get with oxtail.
It is more affordable, however, so you might be able to buy a few pounds more and receive more meat than you would if you bought oxtail.
Buying oxtail has become significantly more expensive thanks to its rise in popularity and limited supply.
As more people come to learn about the delicious flavor that oxtail provides, the prices will likely only increase.
You can save some money by following the tips above.