South Africans work harder for cheaper meat - study | Fin24

South Africans work harder for cheaper meat - study

Aug 22 2017 21:24
Yolandi Groenewald

Johannesburg -  South Africa’s meat is 20% less expensive than the world average, a new study has shown. But South Africans often have to work more hours than their counterparts in other countries to afford it. 

Online caterer Caterwings’ 2017 Meat Price Index details the cost of meat in over 50 countries worldwide. The report examines the cost of beef, fish, chicken, pork and lamb in each country’s biggest cities, comparing it to the minimum wages or average pay for unskilled labour. The report then produces a good indication of the affordability of protein in different countries.

The study revealed that Switzerland has the highest meat prices, in total 141.9% more expensive than the average cost worldwide, followed by Norway (63.7% more expensive) and Hong Kong (61% more expensive). Meat in the United States cost on average 10% more than the rest of the world.

At 52.3%, Ukraine has the least expensive meat prices, closely followed by Malaysia, which is 50.3% less expensive.

Switzerland, despite its high prices, consumed almost 51 kilograms of meat per person per year, compared with South Africa's 58.60 kg per person per year. Australians were by far the biggest meat eaters at 111.5kg/person, while India consumed the least meat at 4.4kg/person.


The study showed that South Africa's unskilled labourers had to work 5.9 hours to afford a kilogram of beef, with a beef leg round priced at an average R88.03 ($6.54), offering some of the cheapest beef on the planet. Beef was the most expensive in Switzerland at R668.75 ($49.68) a kilo of beef leg round, 150% higher than the world average. But Swiss unskilled workers had to work just 3.1 hours to buy their kilo of flesh.

Hong Kong’s beef tenderloin also cost quite an arm and leg at R965.15/kg ($71.70). Beef tenderloin in South Africa was priced at R259.66 ($19.29) and beef mince at R45.63/kg ($3.39).

India had the cheapest beef, according to the study.


Switzerland, Norway and Sweden had the most expensive chicken, and the Ukraine the cheapest.

South Africa’s chicken breast cost R76.18/kg ($5.66) and chicken legs went for R67.57/kg ($502). To afford a kilogram of chicken, South Africans had work 3.30 hours, according to the study.

Indians earning a minimum wage had to work 10.5 hours to buy the same amount of chicken, while those on minimum wage in Denmark could afford a kg of chicken after only 0.3 hours of work. Comparatively, Indians on minimum wage also had to work the most hours, at 39.4, to buy pork, while Danes on minimum wage only had to work 0.7 hours.


Fish was by far the most expensive protein in South Africa, with white fish selling for R180.64 ($13.42) per kilogram. The average price for salmon was R370.74 ($28.06) and for shrimp R331.,63 ($25.10), showing that South Africans paid a premium for their catch of the day. South Africans also had to work 13.50 hours to be able to afford fish. Egyptians were even worse off, having to work almost two days or 44.2 hours of labour to be able to buy fish.

India was by fare the cheapest, with white fish at R87.07 ($6.59), salmon at R155.11 ($11.74) and shrimp at R144.81 ($10.96) per kg.

Pork and lamb

South Africans had to put in 5.1 hours of work to be able to afford a kg of pork, the study revealed. Pork chops went for R91.16/kg ($6.90) and pork sausages for R88.26 ($6.98). Ham cost R148.50 ($11.24) in South Africa. Brazil, the report said, had the cheapest pork on the planet. Eating a pork chops in Rio de Janeiro only cost R56.81/kg ($4.30).

Columbia offered the cheapest lamb chops at R91.03/kg ($6.89). Lamb chops were priced at R181.54/kg ($13.74) on average here and South Africans had to work 8.4 hours to be able afford a kg of lamb.

Caterwings managing director, Susannah Belcher said the index raised some important questions. “It is clear that international inequality exists, and as the world begins to rethink the implications of globalisation, this study clearly demonstrates that food prices ought to be on the agenda.”

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