When it comes to preparing a holiday meal or a special occasion, many people will choose a prime rib to roast or grill.
There is no question that prime rib is one of the better tasting cuts of meat.
The better taste and the fact that this meat is often reserved for a special occasion certainly help to increase the overall price that people are willing to pay for it.
Prime rib is one of the more expensive cuts of meat, and some people are frustrated as to why this is.
If you have ever wondered what it is that makes prime rib so expensive, we have the top five reasons.
After considering these reasons, you should be able to understand why prime rib costs what it does.
From there, you can decide if prime rib is really worth it to you.
Why Is Prime Rib So Expensive? (Top 5 Reasons)
1. More Desirable
The prime rib is naturally higher in price because it is considered a better cut of meat.
Most of the time, if you are making a special meal for a special occasion, you won’t tell your friends to come over for a nice chuck steak.
Of course, there are ways you can prepare a chuck steak so it actually tastes great, but it is certainly not known for its premium flavor like the prime rib.
It is a principle of economics and money that the more desirable items are going to cost more money.
As the demand for the product increases, the price will also increase.
In addition to prime rib, people look for cuts like tenderloin or filet mignon.
These are other well-known parts of the cow that are going to be known for better flavor and a more premium taste.
This concept that prime rib is better started with the fact that there is a bit less of it on the cow.
As years went by, the price difference between the higher and lower grades of meat continued to increase.
At this point in time, the lower grades of meat are more affordable, and sometimes the higher grades are simply not affordable.
For many people, the difference between these more desirable pieces of meat and the standard meat won’t be noticeable.
A lot of this comes down to the way the meat is prepared as well.
When the meat is prepared using certain methods, it stands out as being a bit better tasting.
The bottom line is that the main reason prime rib costs so much is that it is considered to be one of the best parts of the entire cow.
Since this is a widely known fact, people expect to pay quite a bit more for this cut of meat.
2. Lower Percentage of Better Meat
For each cow that is killed for its meat, there is only about 12 percent of it that is used for the higher quality cuts of meat.
The rest of the cow will be of lower quality.
The problem with this is that many people want these premium cuts.
This leaves farmers with a smaller percentage of the desirable cuts and a large percentage of the less desirable cuts.
Farmers need to make a living, and the profit on the better cuts of meat is certainly going to be higher for them.
They will have to sell a considerably high volume of the lesser quality cuts to make anywhere close to the same amount of money.
Since there is such a small amount of prime rib coming from each cow, the prices get considerably higher.
If you think about the work that is involved in raising the cow, feeding it, processing it, and then shipping the meat across the country, there is a lot involved.
In fact, when all of those factors are considered, the price that you pay for prime rib may feel like a bargain.
If cows could start producing more prime rib, this equation could change, and the pricing of the products would go down a bit.
This is not the case, and therefore, we don’t expect to see too many changes in the near future regarding the high price of prime rib.
There are some genetically engineered meat products coming to the market.
These are not actually produced with real beef, but people are enjoying the health and environmental benefits of this food.
It remains to be seen if this will have any kind of impact on the meat industry and whether or not the demand for a cut like prime rib is going to go down.
Most would say that it will be a very long time before we see any kind of change in the pricing of a generous cut of prime rib.
3. Not a Heavily Used Muscle
One of the reasons that prime rib prices are so high is the quality of the meat.
When it comes to cows, there are some muscles that are used quite often and others that are left kind of stagnant.
The muscles that are not used are typically on the upper part of the cow.
This area of the cow does not do all that much work, and therefore, the muscle is not lean, and it has quite a bit of fat in it.
When you look at a high-quality cut of prime rib, you can see there is quite a bit of fat marbled throughout the cut.
Although sometimes it is better to buy steaks that have lots of pink and not so much white, the fat inside the prime rib is a good thing.
Fat is what allows the meat to have the better texture and flavor that it gets when cooked.
Since prime rib has this fat, it can hold onto the flavors that you use when you are cooking it.
For instance, if you decide to do a glaze or season this with one of your favorite spices, the fat helps the rest of the meat take on that flavor profile.
You can also cook a piece of meat with fat on it a bit more slowly.
The slower cooking process tends to leave a more tender piece of meat as the finished product.
When you get these premium cuts of the cow from the upper muscles, you will be surprised by how tender they are.
Just as in the human body, the fat sections are much flabbier and more tender.
The areas where the muscles were used quite a bit tend to be a bit tough, and they will end up chewier.
This is why many of the cheaper cuts of meat are ground so that they are easier to work with.
You will also notice that sometimes the cheaper meats are used in things like a stew.
Cooking the meat in a liquid like that will help to make sure that it absorbs plenty of the liquid and is still quite soft when it is eaten.
With prime rib, you won’t have to worry about that.
As long as you cook it properly, you should have no issues with the flavor or the tenderness of a piece of prime rib.
Unfortunately, there are shortages at times that are going to lead to a higher price for prime rib.
The issue with shortages is that they can happen for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes there will be shortages because of the supply chain not being able to get the fresh meat to the stores.
Other times, you may notice that there are shortages simply because farmers are not always going to have the same number of cows each year.
Some cows produce meat that is not quite as good, and therefore, it can’t be sold or certainly can’t be sold at the prices that people are paying for prime rib.
Shortages happen across the entire food industry, and there is often not much that can be done to fix this issue.
If you find that there is a recent spike in the pricing of the prime rib that you are eating, it most likely has to do with the fact that there is a shortage.
Usually, you can find prime rib from a local distributor even during a shortage, but the pricing could be even higher.
If this is a meal that you eat once a year with your family, certainly the higher price for that one meal will be worth it.
However, if you are a grill master trying to make prime rib every weekend, you will end up spending some big bucks.
5. Meat Classifications/Different Types
One of the things that have led to the price of the prime rib being so high was actually kind of an accident.
When prime rib was first introduced to the market, it was called prime rib.
Sometime after this, the government and meat manufacturers started labeling meat as prime or choice.
The prime meat is considered to be the best, and the choice would be a second-grade meat.
The process that goes into determining what the meat should qualify as is a bit lengthy and requires the meat to be graded against a scale.
A prime rib is also subject to these classifications of prime and choice.
Therefore, you can technically have a prime grade prime rib and a choice grade prime rib.
Many people don’t know this, and they think that the word “prime” is associated with it being a better cut of meat.
Although prime rib is considered to be one of the premium cuts, some choice prime ribs are not quite as good as the prime cuts.
With people purchasing more of the prime rib and simply thinking it is a better cut, the supply started to go down, and the demand started to go up.
This is not entirely deceitful as the prime rib is still considered one of the best cuts of meat.
However, if you go to the store and you feel like you got a deal on a prime rib, chances are it was a choice cut and not a prime cut.
Sometimes, to get a prime rib on the table for less than $100, that is a sacrifice worth making.
Is Prime Rib Worth It?
Now that you know why prime rib is so expensive, it naturally makes sense to ask whether or not it is worth the price.
Most chefs and avid consumers will tell you that, when prime rib is cooked and served correctly, it is by far one of the better cuts of meat.
However, with that being said, it must be done correctly.
If you don’t have much experience with cooking meat, start with some cheaper cuts.
Learn how to control temperature, flavor, and texture.
You are much better off messing up a burger, a flank steak, or a pork tenderloin than ruining a perfectly good prime rib.
Most people enjoy letting the prime rib cook slowly and not overpowering it with too much outside flavor.
The natural flavor of the prime rib seems to be a good pairing for almost any potato and vegetable meal you could put on the table.
Prime rib is one of those things that will disappear rather quickly.
It is so incredibly tender and easy to eat that people will be asking for more, so always be prepared to make a little extra if you are serving a large crowd.
There are quite a few great reasons that prime rib is so expensive.
If this is truly your favorite cut of meat, you are going to have to try and save up some extra grocery money for it.
It is quite rare to see prime rib on sale.
If you do, it may be worth grabbing it and freezing it until you are ready to use it.
Outside of that, you will have to ask yourself if something slightly less expensive like a New York Strip or T-Bone will work to keep you and your guests happy.
In the end, the enjoyment one gets from eating a perfectly cooked prime rib certainly justifies the price that you pay.