Geum Yi

Galbi getting too expensive

January 17, 2014
It's getting more and more difficult to choose galbi when grocery shopping. (Korea Times file)

It’s getting more and more difficult to choose galbi while grocery shopping. (Korea Times file)

By Lee Kyutae, Park Ji-hye

Galbi is just getting too expensive to be placed in tacos.

Galbi (beef short ribs) prices are expected to go up again next week, along with all other cuts of beef – such as shoulders, briskets, and ox tails, due to the cold weather and dwindling supplies.

The wholesale price for choice beef hit $212.05 per hundredweight (cwt) last week, eclipsing the record of $211.37 last May, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retail beef prices in November climbed to $5.41 per pound, also topping the October record of $5.36.

U.S. cattle futures also settled at fresh all-time highs in nearly every contract at the close of the trading session.

Mr. Cho Young-sup, the owner of a Koreatown butcher’s shop called E-Hwa Food Product company, says, “The wholesale price for galbi is about $4.90 per pound right now, but we are expecting a 5-10% increase in February, and other cuts Koreans enjoy, like briskets, shoulders, and ox tails, have been continually getting more expensive as well.”

Brisket prices have already gone up 40-50% within a year to the $2.30-per-pound range, and shoulder cut prices have jumped over one dollar to $3.00 per pound during the same one-year period.

Just as Americans are switching from steaks to burgers, Koreans are switching from galbi to bulgogi and other cheaper cuts.

For that reason, sirloin prices at Korean markets in general have jumped $2.49-$2.99 per pound to the $4.99-$5.49 range. Briskets and ox tail prices have also gone up from $4.99 per pound to $5.99 and $6.99 per pound, respectively.

“Briskets and ox tails are traditionally seasonal items for the winter, since Koreans like hot soup when the weather gets cold, but the prices really jumped a lot this winter,” says Assi Market’s meat department manager Kim Yong-shik. “Because people are looking for cheaper cuts, even the assorted packs are being sold for over $3.00 per pound.”

Galleria Market’s meat department manager Kim Jin-ha added, “It’s true that galbi customers have noticeably decreased because they are so expensive but bulgogi meat sales have actually gone up about 30% despite the price hike.” He also mentioned that they have yet to raise meat prices across the board while monitoring the cold weather and the market situation closely.