Photographer: Markus Spiske/Getty Images

Swiss Meat Is Expensive in Dollars, Cheap in Minutes

Don’t be fooled by Switzerland’s astronomical beef prices
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Swiss meat prices are pretty hard to stomach at first glance.

At $49.68, Switzerland tops the ranking for a kilogram of beef leg round. Yet that seemingly eye-watering sum – around 150 percent higher than the world average – gets more reasonable when you factor in what locals get paid: An unskilled worker needs just 3.1 hours to afford it.

The 2017 Meat Price Index is a foray into the study of relative price levels of goods and labor. According to publisher Caterwings, the cost of beef, fish, chicken, pork and lamb in each country’s biggest cities were compared to the minimum wage and then calculations were run for affordability. In those where there is no federal statutory minimum, it used the average pay for unskilled labor.

“This illustrated that Switzerland has the highest meat prices, while Ukraine has the lowest,” Caterwings said, adding that despite low prices in some countries, someone on minimum wage has to put in long hours to buy a piece of meat, while “those in Norway would need to work less than 1 hour on minimum wage to afford the same.”

In Indonesia, people have to toil for 23.6 hours to purchase the same amount of beef as in Switzerland, though there it costs just $9.01. Buying a kilo of chicken breast in Indonesia involves 7.3 hours of work.

For white fish, the affordability laggard was Egypt, with a kilo requiring 44.2 hours of labor. That compares to little more than an hour of work in Sweden, despite the cost there being higher.

Back in Switzerland, where almost 51 kilos of meat were consumed on a per capita basis last year, the price disparity with neighboring countries has led to regular meat smuggling across the border. And supermarket chain Coop this week started offering burger patties and meatballs made out of beetle larvae as an alternative to beef and pork – just don’t ask about the prices.

— With assistance by Lorcan Roche Kelly

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