Steak prices reach record highs
Staggering prices for steaks are the sting in the tail of the state's worst ever drought.
But for the shrewd consumer prepared to cast an eye further along the meat row, there are bargains to be had in the lamb section.
Graziers with plentiful pasture are furiously buying up cattle to replace herds they were forced to cull at the depths of the drought, when they could not afford to feed them.
The increased competition for livestock has sent the price of beef at the butcher skyrocketing and it is not tipped to come down this year.
Fourth-generation butcher Anthony Puharich, who owns Vic's Meat and world-famous boutique butcher Victor Churchill in Woollahra, described the beef market as a "bloodbath".
"Beef is brutal," Mr Puharich said.
"Livestock prices are at record highs and as a result the price of meat at your butcher is at record highs."
The price of a scotch fillet at the butcher has risen from around $45/kg to $55/kg in the past year.
Rump steak that was fetching between $15-$18/kg during the drought in 2018 is also $10/kg dearer.
Mince that was selling for $12/kg last year is now fetching $15/kg.
"That might not sound like a lot but you're talking about 30 to 60 per cent more," he said.
"You can forget the prices in the 2018 days, they won't ever happen again."
Cattle are more costly than they have been in the past 20 years.
The silver lining is the quality of grass-feed beef is the best in a decade, according to butchers.
"We are in a unique situation and one we haven't experienced for a long time," Rabobank animal protein analyst Angus Gidley-Baird said.
"The Australian cattle herd is at 30-year lows, slaughter numbers are the lowest we have seen for 35 years and improved conditions mean graziers who had been forced to sell cattle because of the drought can hold on to what they have or buy more cattle to restock and rebuild.
"Logic suggests the price will slowly start coming down, but it will be fairly slow.
"Steak is not likely to get cheaper this year."
Lamb represents a bargain because sheep were cheaper to feed during the drought and they reproduce quicker, which has allowed farmers to restock faster.
Lamb cutlets that were selling for between $60-$70/kg in 2019 are now selling in the high $40s and low $50s/kg.
A record grain crop harvested late last year has lowered the cost of producing chicken and pork.
Originally published as 'Bloodbath': Steak prices at record highs