Understanding Ribeye Steak Prices: Factors Behind the High Cost of Premium Beef Cuts

Ribeye steak prices are high due to the rich flavor, tender texture, scarcity of rib meat, supply and demand, and increased costs of corn and meat production.

Raw rib eye beef meat steak on a table prepared for the gril. White background. Top view

If you’re looking to treat yourself to a good steak, ribeye might be your top choice. Ribeye steak comes from the rib section of the cow and contains a lot of marbling, which means an abundance of flavor and options for great meals.

Cuts of Beef

However, because of its rich flavor, tender texture, and the scarcity of rib meat compared to other meat cuts on a single cow, ribeye comes with a heftier price tag (especially if its cut into a Tomahawk Steak).

Other factors, like supply and demand, also mean that even the cheapest ribeyes run on the spendier side.

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What Is the Ribeye? Here’s Why Ribeye Steak Is Expensive

Ribeye, also known among butchers as market steak, Spencer steak, beauty steak, entrecôte, Delmonico steak, or Scotch filet, gets its name from where the butcher extracts the meat from.

This cut of steak comes with rich layers of marbling, which comes from the fat of the animal. This marbling contributes to the melt-in-your-mouth richness that steak lovers associate with the ribeye steak. The steaks that come from the spinalis area of the steer’s rib typically have the most superior taste.

Serious Eats

Finally, foodies who want to enjoy a ribeye now and then should know that a number of factors contribute to the expense of this meat cut.

To a greater or lesser degree, all of them have to do with supply and demand in one sense or another (same with other cuts like tenderloin, skirt, and tongue). Further clarification of this is explained in the list below.

1. Tender Cuts of Meat Are the Most Expensive

Ribeye Steak

Most steak lovers appreciate a juicy, tender steak, with lots of juices. Its tender juiciness comes from an area of the animal that got moved very little in the animal’s lifetime.

The more movement in an area of the animal’s body, the tougher the meat will be. The muscle meat that makes up the ribeye steak never got much movement, relatively speaking.

Here’s where supply and demand come in. The part of the cow’s body that the ribeye steak comes from represents only a very small percentage of its overall body.

The muscle meat that the ribeye is made from covers only about 8% to 10% of the animal’s body.

In order to make money from selling these cuts of meat, the butcher needs to charge more money for a single beef cut.

Conversely, this also explains why certain cuts of meat, like the chuck, round, and bottom sirloin steak cuts, and cube steaks, cost less.

These cuts come from an area of the cow that got a lot of movement. The constant exercise toughened the muscle meat. 

Finally, these areas of the body contain a great deal of connective tissue, which also leads to tougher meat (think brisket).

2. The Increased Price of Corn Increases the Price of Ribeyes

Some meat industry experts suggest that the increase in meat prices has to do with an increase in the cost of corn. It costs money to raise cattle for food. In this case, cattle eat corn, because corn as a food source fattens cattle up quickly. 

According to the University of Illinois, corn futures rose in price from $4.68 per bushel to $6.93 per bushel in the space of about six months during the year 2021. 

This price increase caused a chain reaction of sorts which eventually caused an increase in the end-product meat price. More expensive food prices for the cattle equals more expensive prices for meat.

3. Supply and Demand Due to COVID-19 Increased Ribeye Costs

It isn’t just the supply and demand of corn or the location of the meat on the cow that affects supply and demand and meat prices. The workers in the meat plants, or more specifically, a lack of them, also affect the price of meats, like ribeye steaks

In the year 2020, the shutdowns related to the COVID-19 virus affected the meat industry, as meatpacking plants closed down due to COVID-related working restrictions. 

No workers in the meatpacking plants meant that farmers had to figure out what to do with the cattle they had raised with the intention of selling for meat.

Many culled animals from their own stock, causing a decrease in supply and an increase in the cost of ribeye and other meats, according to Mashed.

Is Ribeye Steak Expensive: FAQ

Here are a few common questions about ribeye steaks & price.

What is the most expensive steak cut?

Filet Mignon

While ribeye counts among the most expensive cuts of steak, it isn’t the most expensive cut. According to the USDAfilet mignon is the most expensive cut. It’s a tender cut of meat, and it’s raised in such a way to ensure its tenderness.

These cuts are usually from Angus cattle, but the same cuts from other cows can cost even more.

Kobe Wagyu Steak

For example, Kobe filet beef, which is made from Wagyu cows, costs about $250 for about 8 ounces of meat. Japanese Wagyu beef ribeye costs as much as $150.

What is a good price for ribeye steak?

As you can probably imagine, the answer to this varies widely. Aside from the practical factors caused by supply and demand, there are also personal factors that affect this. 

More specifically, for the person who loves ribeye steaks and doesn’t mind spending a good deal of money on them, then the price is less of an issue. This is true even if the meat costs $20 per pound, which it sometimes does.

But for the person on a budget, the higher meat prices will be a deterrent. Ten dollars per pound is considered a low cost for ribeye meat, but for many people, this is still too much. On average, a good price is considered to be between $10 and $15 per pound.

Additionally, where you buy the steak affects the cost: Geography matters in meat pricing. It also matters if you buy the steak in a restaurant or if you buy it in the store and cook it at home.

Is it possible to save money on the ribeye?

There are a couple of options open to you if you want to save money on rib eye steak and other more expensive cuts of steak. First, if it’s within your budget and the space constraints of your home, you could try to purchase the meat at wholesale prices (or even buy a whole cow). 

If you don’t have the budget to do it on your own, the Pricer suggests that you split the costs between yourself and another member of your family or a friend. 

There’s another way to reduce the cost of the ribeye. Many stores have sections that sell meat that must be put in the freezer within just a matter of days.

Finding this section of the store or butcher and purchasing this meat can save you some serious cash – up to 70% in some cases. 

Of course, the other option you have is to buy a cheaper cut of meat and learn how to cook it so that it tastes great and isn’t tough and hard to chew. Two key factors make this fool-the-palate steak work.

First, it’s important to remember that cheap steaks are cheap because the meat is tough. That means that the muscle got a lot of exercise. In light of this, it’s important to tenderize the meat, with either kosher or sea salt. 

Next, you want to cook the meat at a lower temperature and at a slower pace. Cooking it too fast or on too high heat prevents toughness from cooking out of it.

When you’re shopping for this meat, try to get the freshest meat possible. That will help, too. In actuality, this is a good rule of thumb for any cut of meat you buy, whether it is a cheap cut or a ribeye steak. 

Is ribeye the most expensive steak?

According to Forbes, the most expensive steak is a year 2000 vintage rib steak called cote de boeuf. The price of that steak came in at $3200.

Only a small number of chefs around the world know how to make vintage steaks, and the process starts way before the steak is cooked. The animals must grow up in a stress-free environment before they are slaughtered.

Unlike the typical ribeye, which gets much of its flavor from fat, the meat on this steak has very little fat.

The meat comes from a specific type of cow called the Blonde Aquintaine, which is about as expensive as Kobe or Black Angus cattle.

What’s the best way to cook your ribeye steak?

The best-tasting ribeye steaks get cooked on a source of high heat. Many foodies love to toss their ribeye steaks on the grill. They add a pinch of spices and a bit of olive oil to bring out the meat’s flavoring.

 Going the cast iron skillet route also works well. When cooked this way – that is, on high heat – the results are flavors and textures that slide over the tongue. 

The steak itself gets a bit of tasty crust with the help of the oil, spices, and cooing process. This contrasts nicely with the tender, juicy texture of the steak’s interior. Cook the steak on each side for between 3 and 5 minutes (if you’d like it to be medium-rare). 

What are some other expensive cuts of steak and why do they cost so much?

Steaks like tenderloin, strip loin, Porterhouse, and T-bone all fall on the high end in terms of pricing. The reason these steaks cost so much is the same reason that ribeye steaks cost so much.

They come from a part of the animal that only gets a small amount of movement. These parts are also only a small portion of the cow, adding the supply and demand factor to the cost.

What else affects the price of the ribeye?

Surprisingly, meats like ribeye steaks don’t cost the consumer as much as they actually could cost the consumer. A good deal of meat manufacturers receive subsidies from the US government. 

The government gives money to both beef and corn growers a combined $27.8 billion (or so) per year. Without these subsidies, the end consumer would likely pay much more for the ribeye steak they enjoy at the local steak house, according to Mashed.

Incidentally, Money.com reports that it isn’t just ribeye prices that have flown through the roof. It is pretty much all meat from chicken to bacon to lamb. The snag in the supply chains over the past several has affected these industries, too. In the year 2021, meat prices, in general, went up between 3% and 24%. 

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