ZURICH: Not many people in the world can afford to pay nearly $50 for a kilogramme of beef leg round or more than $20 for the same amount of pork chop. But those are the price tags on these cuts of meat in Swiss supermarkets. According to the Meat Price Index 2017 by Caterwingsexternal link, Switzerland has the highest meat prices in the world – 142% more than the global average.
Caterwings estimates that an unskilled Swiss worker needs only 3.1 hours to afford 1kg of beef, while in India someone must work 22.8 hours to pay for the same amount. The extremely high cost of living in Switzerland goes some way towards explaining the high prices, yet Switzerland still lags behind many other western European countries in the index’s affordability calculations. On closer analysis, multiple factors influence Swiss meat prices. For Franz Hagenbuch, president of the Swiss Beef Associationexternal link, the high production costs in Switzerland are partly to blame, including “salaries, energy, fertilizer, veterinary bills, construction costs, insurance and animal feed”. Kevin Moat, who runs a small organic beef farm above Lake Thun, agrees that costs in the country are particularly high. Feed is also closely controlled as is how livestock are transported: cattle eat mainly grass and hay, and much of the fodder for pork comes from by-products of human consumption, while animals cannot be on the road in a trailer longer than six hours, compared to 24 hours in the EU.
These strict environmental and animal welfare standards have a direct influence on the health of animals and quality of Swiss meat, say experts, but they also come at a price.
“We are much more expensive than our neighbours due to the salaries, but the quality of meat is different, and this is tied to how the animals are treated,” explains Elias Welti, head of communication at the Swiss Meat Unionexternal link, the leading butchers’ association.
Welti says the numerous Swiss regulations result in higher staffing and infrastructure costs. As one example, he cites directives setting out the amount of space that must be afforded each animal to move about, lie or feed. Swiss law, he argues, is much more animal friendly in this regard than other countries, and this too influences prices.