Most of us buy meat. I've often wondered whether I'm getting the best deal so I took to the stores shopping for a basket of meat aimed at a family of four to do a price comparison.
Every family differs, but the people at Beef + Lamb said my basket looked like a fair representation of what a family might buy in a week.
Cutting to the chase, the prices to the nearest dollar for the same basket of meat bought on the same day from stores in and around the Wairau Valley were: Pak'nSave, $52; New World, $56; Butcher Jacks, $57; Mad Butcher, $59; Countdown, $62; Farro Fresh, $75; and Seaview Meats, $92.
I also went to the Tai Ping Chinese supermarket, which always has great meat bargains, but couldn't include it in the table because it sells different cuts of meat from the big chain supermarkets. Its lamb shoulder chops at $9.99 a kilo were cheaper than any of the other stores.
Some prices need to be put into context. On the day I visited none of the items on my list was on sale at the Mad Butcher, which meant its prices seemed unusually high.
Another anomaly comes when comparing the likes of Seaview Meats with a supermarket. Seaview offers an upmarket meat selection: all the meat is either free range or organic, meaning it's going to be more expensive than the mass-produced stuff most of us plebs buy.
I asked Foodstuffs, owner of both Pak'nSave and New World, which have different price points, whether the quality of New World's meat was better.
The answer was: "Pak'nSave and New World meats are of equal quality. The two supermarkets source their meat from the same suppliers. The difference in meat between the two supermarkets is often in the range and cuts available."
The butchers at Seaview told me that the difference between their meat and that of a supermarket is that they specifically order meat from beasts of a certain size, not just at random.
Another anomaly worth noting is that Farro Fresh, although more expensive overall than the supermarkets, usually has loss leaders each week, which are worth picking up.
The day I checked it had the cheapest premium mince of all the stores I went to.
The smartest meat shoppers are those who don't buy the stuff. It's much cheaper to be a vegetarian. If you really must buy the stuff and want to get the best deal, cherry-pick the bargains and freeze them.
• Nosh: Turk's corn-fed chicken breast skinless/boneless, $11.99 a kilo.
• Mad Butcher: Tegel Size 10 chickens (frozen) $5.95 each.
• Mad Butcher: fresh sliced scotch fillet steak $18.99 a kilo.
• Pak'nSave: beef schnitzel on special at $9.49 a kilo.
• New World: chicken breast skin-on for $9.99 a kilo.