Food ingredients

Why are Oxtails So Expensive?

There’s nothing better than a bowl of oxtail stew after a long day of work. Its unique texture and intense flavor are out of this world.

Oxtail refers to a cut from the tail of a cow. Initially, most people shunned it and considered it leftovers, but with time, they realized how flavorful it was and embraced it fully. 

Today, oxtail is a popular dish in the United States.  You may have noticed that oxtails are so expensive, especially in restaurants.


They are several reasons why this is the case, including; limited availability, butchering expenses, high demand, shipping costs, cooking process, pressure on farmers to produce high-quality oxtail, and lack of bulk sales.

This article will discuss these factors in detail. Let’s start with the basics.

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Where to Buy Oxtail

Since oxtail is very popular, it is stocked in most stores and butchers.

Initially, you could only find oxtail in Asian shops, but now you can buy it in most grocery stores and butcher shops near you.

Your butcher will guide you on the available options.

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Why are they so Pricey?


You may have noticed that oxtails are pretty pricey compared to other meat varieties.

Here are some reasons for the expensive price tag.


Oxtail is a scarce cut of beef. One cow produces approximately 750 pounds of meat, but the tail only weighs 6 pounds of that once suppliers skin and butcher it. This is less than 1% of the meat, hence its scarce availability.

With increasing demand, oxtail has become even rarer.

Butchering expenses


The butchering expenses incurred significantly contribute to oxtails’ expensive price tag.

Note that butchering oxtail is difficult compared to butchering other cow parts because the meat comes from a complex region to curve. Additionally, curving all the meat from that area is a daunting task.

For suppliers to get value for the meat, they must hire experienced butchers who can handle it. Additionally, they need to buy special tools to help butchers curve out the meat. This explains why oxtail meat is so pricey.

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High demand


For the longest time, oxtail was not a popular beef cut in the United States. Research shows that several centuries ago, oxtail was part of scraps that slaves ate. European countries weren’t any different.

At the time, most people considered oxtail as leftovers. Therefore, poor people in various communities are the ones who ate oxtail. 

With time, people discovered new cooking methods for oxtail and realized that it was pretty flavorful with unique tenderness that surpassed all other cuts of meat.

Consequently, more people started appreciating oxtail, and it quickly gained popularity. Today, oxtail is in very high demand. It is mainly served in high-end restaurants. 


Another reason why oxtail is in high demand is the nose-to-tail eating philosophy which advances the idea of eating every edible part of the animal to reduce food waste.

Note that a lot of meat is wasted during production, so it would help eat all other remaining parts of the animal. More people have subscribed to this philosophy; hence they are eating oxtail more.

Even with increased demand, the supply of oxtail is still limited. Therefore, this beef cut is quite pricey.

Shipping costs


The entire process of growing, processing, and shipping oxtail is pretty pricey. Most suppliers ship oxtail to China for processing. Once processed, the oxtail is shipped back to suppliers, who in turn ship it out or sell it locally.

Suppliers who process oxtail locally also face high shipping costs when shipping it across the country since they must ship the processed oxtail in refrigerated shipping containers.

The further the restaurant or store is from the supplier, the higher the shipping costs and the more expensive the oxtail. 

Cooking process


Cooking oxtail isn’t too tricky, but it takes a long time. If you want to enjoy oxtail, you need to be very patient. Most oxtail recipes cook in 3-5 hours.

Note that oxtails contain a good amount of collagen. Therefore, they need a lot of moisture and heat to convert them to gelatin. Once converted, it combines with the marrow and fat, resulting in delicious tender meat.

You cannot fry or grill oxtail. Ideally, it should be slow-cooked. In most restaurants, oxtail is expensive because chefs take a considerable amount of time to cook it.

Additionally, their kitchens use more energy to cook it compared to other meat dishes.

Social trends


You may have noticed that food popularity follows social trends. When a specific dish starts trending, its price increases. The same happened with the oxtail.

Today, oxtail is a popular dish in most social circles. Eating oxtail is considered classy and trendy.

 Social media has also advanced the idea that eating oxtail is cool. With people posting delicious-looking oxtail dishes on their social media pages, everyone is influenced to try it. Consequently, more people demand oxtail, causing a hike in prices.

Pressure on farmers to make high-quality oxtail


Initially, the oxtail came from oxen. Farmers would butcher oxen and harvest all their meat, including the tail.

Today, oxtail is harvested from most cow species. However, the farmers are under pressure to produce high-quality oxtail.

To do so, they need to ensure that their male cows are healthy enough to have enough meat on their tails. If the cows don’t have enough meat on their tails, they cannot be harvested or sold.

Therefore, farmers spend a lot of money ensuring all their cows are healthy enough to harvest oxtails. This is one factor that makes oxtail so expensive.

There is no bulk sale.


Unlike other beef cuts, oxtails are not sold in bulk. The reason for this is that oxtail quantities are not large enough to accommodate bulk sales.

Oxtail is sold per pound, so stores and restaurants can’t save money by buying larger quantities at once.

Even so, they may not be able to buy more than a few pounds at a time because of limited availability. Consequently, the prices are high.

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Oxtail may be expensive, but it is worth every coin. Its rise in popularity combined with its limited availability and social trends make it very pricey.

Oxtail makes for a super flavorful and nutritious meal. Appropriately cooked, oxtail has a unique tender texture that any other beef cut can’t replicate.

If you’ve never tried oxtail before, this is your cue to go ahead and do it. It’s an experience you won’t regret.

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