Large differences in meat prices in Europe; most expensive in Switzerland

The Dutch consumer pays considerably more for meat products than in other EU countries. The Netherlands is in the EU top five with meat prices.

According to a study by the statistical office for 2019, there appear to be large price differences within the European Union. When the price levels are compared with the EU average, it appears that in 2019 the meat price was highest in Austria (price index of 145) and Luxembourg (141), followed by France (131), the Netherlands (127), Belgium (125) and Finland (124).

In contrast, the lowest meat price levels in 2019 were in Poland and Romania (both with a price index of 63), followed by Bulgaria (66) and Lithuania (71). Romania had the lowest meat prices in the European Union (EU), 37.3% below the EU average, Poland (36.7% below the EU average), Bulgaria (33.8% below the EU average) and Lithuania (29, 9% below the EU mean).

The categories of meat covered by these statistics include beef and veal, pork, lamb, mutton and goat meat, poultry, other meat and edible offal, delicatessen and other meat preparations, according to Eurostat.

The EU study also included meat prices from three non-EU countries Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. These countries are part of the European Economic Zone, but are not covered by the EU agriculture and food policy. In Switzerland, meat costs almost one and a half times as much as the global average. It is more expensive than anywhere else in the world, according to a study by Caterwings, a now defunct online marketplace for catering.

Compared to the EU average, the Swiss have to pay 2.3 times as much for meat (more than double), Eurostat data shows. A random sample shows that a kilo of ham from conventional livestock farming in Switzerland cost an average of 23 francs (21 euros), while a kilo of organic ham cost 51 francs (47 euros), more than double.

The Swiss animal welfare law is considered the strictest in the world. But it's not that the high meat prices are a result of that; that more animal-friendly livestock farming will drive up production costs and that farmers and livestock would ultimately benefit.

That's not the case, says Mathias Binswanger, professor of economics at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland in Olten. "The higher price mainly benefits retailers, not farmers." The high margin for wholesalers and retailers increases even further if the meat is produced under animal-friendly conditions, a market analysis by the Swiss animal welfare organization STS has already shown, Deutsche Welle recently reported.