Why Is Filet Mignon So Expensive?

Tender, juicy and savory. There is nothing quite as delicious or buttery in texture as a filet mignon steak. Whether wrapped in bacon or pan seared in garlicky butter, this ideal cut is always a crowd pleaser. However, it also comes with quite a hefty price tag. Why is filet mignon so expensive? The answer is surprisingly simple.

Filet mignon averages between $20 to $30 per pound. This can go up tremendously at a restaurant reaching nearly $150 per plate. While this seems like a steep charge, when you consider the fact that you can only get a little over a pound of this melt-in-your-mouth meal from EACH steer, the price suddenly doesn’t seem so exorbitant. Moreover, it is arguably the most tender part of the cow, making it the gold standard of meats.

The Anatomy Of A Steer

The average steer or beef cow weighs approximately 1200 pounds. However, “The yield of edible meat from a beef carcass often comes as a bit of a surprise…the percent of the live animal weight that becomes carcass weight…for fed beef is usually around 62-64%. In other words, from a 1200 pound steer, you can expect a 740 – 770 pound carcass.” 

While this still seems like an ample amount of meat, it is important to note that the filet mignon comes from the tenderloin portion of the cow. Otherwise known as the psoas major muscle, this small section of flesh lies just under the spine and the sirloin section of the steer. This cut equates to just about a pound of flesh.

In percentages that equals 0.08% of the animal’s total body mass and as much as 0.135% of the actual edible portion of the cow! At less than a quarter of a percent, it is really quite understandable why the expensive price tag is so high on this cut of meat.

The Composition Of The Tenderloin

As the name implies, the tenderloin portion of the cow is extremely tender. However, the beef tenderloin section is relatively thick. The smaller end that reaches into the short loin of the steer is the filet mignon. While both cuts of meat are a similar flavor, the texture is where their difference lies.  

This is another important factor that plays into the cost of this mouthwatering steak. Unlike other parts of the steer, the filet mignon comes from one of the least worked areas on the steer’s body. Furthermore, the muscle has very minimal connective tissue. It also has an extremely small fat content. 

Due to the fact that this muscle receives very little exercise throughout the steer’s life, this portion of meat is exceptionally tender. This buttery texture is coveted by many and provides a quality that is hard to compare.

The Pricing Of Filet Mignon

As mentioned above, the average price of filet mignon is $20 to $30 per pound. However, these prices can fluctuate tremendously based on what type of beef you buy. Purchasing filet mignon from an American steer will give you a relatively affordable price for a succulent section of meat.

Breed Of Cow

However, for those who want a truly exquisite serving, Japanese Kobe beef is a grade above the rest. This elite meat comes from Tajima-ushi cattle that are raised on certified farms in Japan. Known for the exquisite marbling and buttery texture, these cows must stay below 1,034 pounds to ensure this feature of the meat. Moreover, only 3,000 cattle making the cut each year.

These attributes will run you an outrageously expensive tab of $200 per pound or more. Additionally, unless specially imported, this culinary masterpiece is only available in Japan. Thus, it might be a long trek to try this authentic cut of meat.

This is followed by Japanese Wagyu Beef and then American Wagyu Beef. These steaks range anywhere from $100 to $200 per pound. This pricing is also dependent on the cut of beef that you choose as well. For example, a filet mignon will be much more expensive than a ribeye. However, the New York Strip will likely run you about the same cost. When choosing your option, you just have to determine if you want a tender cut or one that is a little more tough.

Type Of Feed

The two main types of cow feed are grain and grass. As you may have noticed in the supermarket, there is an exceptional amount of advertising for the premiere grass fed beef. Why? According th the Mayo Clinic, “Grass-fed beef may have: Lower total fat content, more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, more omega-6 fatty acid (linolenic acid) [and] more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E.”

As we all know, the healthier the food, the more expensive the items become. Thus, filet mignon that is grass fed will be more expensive than the grain fed varieties. Keep in mind, while there are spectacular health benefits, this cut of beef will have less marbling and therefore tends to be less juicy than the fattier varieties.

The Downside To Filet Mignon

The creme de la creme of steaks does have one small flaw though. Without the tough, gristly fat surrounding the meat, the filet does lack the signature flavor of a ribeye, porterhouse or New York strip. Their marbling leads to a lot of carving at the dinner table. However, it also provides the rich, robust flavor of steak that we know and love. 

This is why most filets are accompanied with bold flavored garnishes such as bacon, garlic, butter and a liberal helping of seasonings. Additionally, due to the lean nature of this cut, it does need to be monitored more closely throughout preparation. Filet mignon cooks very quickly so it is susceptible to drying out and overcooking if not prepared properly. 

Filet Mignon Has Ideal Health Benefits

Despite the flaw in flavor due to the lack of fat, filet mignon does have a handful of health benefits. According to the research presented at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Lean red meat is…a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and iron.” These are essential components to a healthy diet. Not only does it supply the consumer with bolstered energy levels and improved cellular function, but it also boosts immune health!

Additionally, these are key building blocks for a baby! Experts recommend that expectant mothers consume 12 mg of zinc and 27 mg of iron. They also require 200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 60 grams of protein per day. Lean red meat can be a fantastic source of these crucial nutrients as long as it is consumed in moderation and cooked properly. 

Filet Mignon Alternatives

For those individuals who have to prioritize their spending, there are a handful of alternatives that have a similar texture and flavor to the filet mignon that won’t break the bank.

Flank Steak

Flank steaks are found in the belly of this beast, just underneath the loin and sirloin. It is one of the most popular cuts due to its low fat content and the fact that it is packed with flavor. While not at the melt in your mouth level of a filet, when prepared correctly, it can be quite tender. Moreover, this is a much more affordable option, sitting around $12 per pound.

T-Bone Steak

Found in the short loin section of the cow, this is the ideal steak for those who want a juicy, flavor packed meat, with the tenderness of the filet. Averaging around $14 per pound, this is another fantastic option for steak lovers. However, as the name implies, there is a bone in the mix and you do pay for this portion of the weight. This is something to consider as the meat is technically a little more per pound when you just consider the edible part of your purchase.

Porterhouse Steak

This behemoth steak is the perfect culmination of a filet mignon and a New York Strip. This two for one deal is the located where the top loin and the tenderloin merge together. Just like filet mignon, there is a limited amount of this meat on the steer (only two two three cuts per animal). This raises the price, ranging between $15 and $22, depending on the feed type and breed of cow. It is both flavorful and tender in certain sections, making it an excellent choice.

However, just like the T-Bone, you will also be paying for the bone holding everything together. Additionally, due to the fact the each side of this steak is comprised of a different consistency of fat, this can be a very hard steak to cook without prior experience. Thus, this is a fantastic choice for a restaurant, but a harder option to prepare at home.

Final Thoughts

For those individuals with an expensive palate, filet mignon is a taste like none other. Nevertheless, this price tag is a prime example of the laws of supply and demand. The filet equates to less than a tenth of a percent of the overall weight of the steer. Moreover, this is an elite dish at most restaurants. This equates to a hefty bill because there is a limited supply with a high demand. However, for those looking to treat themself, this delectable dish is bound to dazzle their tastebuds!

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