Absurdity of Ground Beef Prices: The Rise of the Bullshit Burger

Noticing a confusing  trend in meat section of grocery stores.  Charging premium prices for “extra” lean ground beef AND kobe ground beef (well marbled).  Doesn’t make sense.

Which costs the most?  Options:

  • 97 percent lean ground beef
  • 90 percent lean ground beef
  • 80 percent lean ground beef
  • 70 percent lean ground beef

Which costs the most?  Options:

  • Kobe ground beef
  • Prime ground beef
  • Select ground beef
  • Choice ground beef

From group 1, most expensive is “97 percent lean.” From group 2, most expensive is “Kobe,” renown for its high fat distribution among lean tissue.  Cheapest would be the high-fat “70 percent” and “Choice,” which is known for its lack of fat.  Seems like pricing partially depends on how something is named, marketed.  It’s as if one can take ground beef that’s 70 percent lean and triple its price by rebranding it as “kobe style” ground beef.

People are told by some nutritionists and doctors to eat lean beef.  That drives up lean beef demand, which increases its price.  People are also told by chefs that kobe and prime beef (well marbled) are the best cuts (they are, fat is flavor!).  So some consumers favor “kobe” and “prime.”  Both make bullshit burgers.

There’s no point in paying more for lean ground beef because fat is, if you’re cooking the beef medium well or more, cooked off, especially on a grill.  In the end, 97 percent lean probably doesn’t have that much less fat than its 70 percent lean counterpart.  Also, fat is what makes meat taste good.  As argued elsewhere, meat with little fat often results in more use of condiments such as mayo.  Most people will figure out a way to get the satisfaction they crave.  Just enjoy the fat and you’ll gradually eat less of it

So kobe beef burgers — popular these days — are also ripoffs.  You’re going to lose the fat that makes kobe so tasty and tender anyway.  Anthony Bourdain on the absurdity of Kobe beef burgers:

Enterprising restaurants are now offering the “Kobe beef burger,” enticingly priced at near or above $100 a pop. And if there’s a better way to prove one’s total ignorance of all three words – Kobebeef, and burger – this, my friends, is it. It’s the trifecta of dumb-ass. The Kobe experience is principally about the marbling, the even distribution of fat through lean. A hamburger is a bunch of lean beef thrown into a grinder with varying degrees of fat. If you are foolish enough to order a Kobe burger, you are entirely missing the point. Firstly, the fat will melt right out of the thing while cooking. Secondly, you are asking the chef to destroy the very textural notes for which Kobe is valued by smarter people. Thirdly, for an eight-ounce Kobe burger, you are paying for the chef to feed you all the outer fat and scrap bits he trimmed off the outside of his “real” Kobe so he can afford to serve properly trimmed steaks to wiser patrons who know what the hell they’re doing. And fourthly, you’re paying a hundred bucks for a freakin’ hamburger! Get over yourself! You’ve already established you’re too drunk and stupid to enjoy it in the first place.

So they’re not, at least anymore, $100, but they’re often featured as happy hour Kobe beef sliders at restaurants that attract the clueless and pretentious who are more impressed with labels like “kobe” than substance.  Don’t be a meathead, think about, understand what you’re eating. Just keep it simple and enjoy life without wasting money on marketing schtick.




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