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I Did the Math and this Meat Box Subscription Is 15% Cheaper Than the Grocery Store


Getting high-quality meat on the grill or cast-iron skillet isn’t always easy. And even if it is easy, it isn’t always affordable. In my neighborhood, quality beef, organic chicken and humanely raised cuts of pork are wildly inflated versus lesser grades of meat. As CNET’s resident tester of all things food, I’m always on the hunt for budget-friendly bites and so I got to wondering if meat box subscriptions are a better deal than shopping for premium cuts at the grocery store.

ButcherBox is one of our favorite meat box subscriptions (read our full review here). It’s simple and convenient and the company sources high-quality and humanely raised meat and delivers them to your door. But could a ButcherBox meat subscription be cheaper than buying meat at the market?

To find out, I crunched some numbers to see how much a shipment of ButcherBox’s premium meats would cost if you were to buy the same — or very similar — cuts at a midrange grocery store such as Wegmans.

After tallying up three months of deliveries, it was revealed that ButcherBox offers significant savings versus those same organic and grass-fed meats when bought from a supermarket. If you include the cost of ButcherBox’s promotional gift (3 pounds of organic chicken in each delivery at the time of this writing), ButcherBox is a full 15% cheaper.

ButcherBox vs. Wegmans

ButcherBox curated plan Same meat purchased at Wegmans
$146 per month $170.72 per month

As good as that sounds, ButcherBox still might not be the cheaper option for everyone. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain.) Here’s how I did the math and exactly how expensive — or inexpensive — ButcherBox is compared with buying quality meats at a grocery store. 

What is ButcherBox?

packages of steaks packages of steaks

ButcherBox beef is grass-fed and much of it comes from Australia, where production standards are high.

ButcherBox

ButcherBox is a meat subscription that sends quality meats in custom or curated packages, and I do stress quality

ButcherBox’s beef is grass-fed and humanely raised and much of it comes from Australia, which famously has higher beef production standards than those in the US. Chicken and poultry from ButcherBox are also certified humanely raised (GAP 3 or 4). If you’re confused about poultry labels, that’s because they’re confusing. Here’s a helpful guide to what chicken labels really mean.

box of meat on countertop box of meat on countertop

ButcherBox

ButcherBox also includes only humanely raised pork and wild-caught seafood in its monthly boxes. If you’ve held a package of wild-caught salmon up next to a filet of farmed salmon, you’ve probably noticed the stark difference in color and quality — but also price. 

package of butcherbox salmon package of butcherbox salmon

ButcherBox salmon is all wild-caught.

ButcherBox

In covering food and food business for more than five years, I’ve learned which designations matter and which ones don’t. ButcherBox focuses on sourcing meat with grades and standards that promote sustainable farming and humane treatment of animals, all resulting in better quality meat. ButcherBox is proud of its high standards and outlines them in great detail here

How much does ButcherBox cost?

ButcherBox has two plans: a custom box of meats chosen by you, or a curated box in which the selection is left up to the company. For curated plans, you’ll receive a box every two, four, six or eight weeks with a mix of ground beef, steaks, pork cuts, organic chicken pieces (mostly boneless), and the occasional cut of bison or other red meat. 

butcher box plan options butcher box plan options

ButcherBox costs $146 for the cheapest plan. If you have a big crew, you can save more per pound with the monthly Big Box.

ButcherBox/Screenshot by CNET

ButcherBox also has two sizes for each subscription: regular and large. The regular box is 8 to 11 pounds of meat per month, while a large order is exactly double that — 16 to 22 pounds. The regular-sized curated box costs $146 while the Big Box is $269. 

Shipping is free or, more accurately, built into the subscription price.

How I did the math

For this exercise, I chose ButcherBox’s curated subscription and used the smaller box (8 to 11 pounds of meat each month.)  To compare ButcherBox prices with those of a typical grocery store, I used my local supermarket, Wegmans. Wegmans is not a budget supermarket, but it’s also not the most expensive option in my neighborhood. I chose Wegmans both because it’s where I shop when I shop in person, but also because it has a sprawling selection of quality meats, including grass-fed beef, organic chicken and wild-caught seafood.

organic chicken thighs from wegman's website organic chicken thighs from wegman's website

Organic chicken thighs cost $7.89 per pound at Wegmans. 

ButcherBox/Screenshot by CNET

I tallied up the items from the three months of ButcherBox’s and curated plan: January 2024, December 2023 and November 2023. When finding a match at Wegmans, I used the cheapest option for each item. For instance, if the ButcherBox shipment included a 3-pound package of organic chicken breast, I used the cheapest per-pound option of organic chicken breast available at Wegmans. 

If an item was on sale at Wegmans, I use the discounted sale price since that’s a perk of grocery store shopping. I made these calculations on Feb. 7, 2024. I used Wegmans’ direct pricing, not a third-party delivery vendor such as Instacart or DoorDash, since they often have inflated prices. 

butcherbox bacon promotion butcherbox bacon promotion

ButcherBox has rotating promotions for new subscribers that make the savings even more pronounced. 

ButcherBox

In addition to the items sent in ButcherBox’s custom plan, I also included the ButcherBox free promotional gifts when calculating the total grocery store cost. New subscribers to ButcherBox receive a gift of meat or fish in their monthly deliveries for a full year. In some cases, the gift is included for the entirety of your subscription. 

Right now, the gift for new subscribers is a choice of 2 pounds of grass-fed beef, 3 pounds of organic chicken thighs or 1 pound of premium steak tips. Three pounds of organic chicken thighs at Wegmans costs $23.67, so I included that in each month’s total.

ButcherBox vs. grocery store: Which is cheaper?

When I averaged out the three months of itemized list purchased at the grocery store plus the free gift included in each delivery, the total for meats when purchased at Wegmans was $170.72. Compare that to ButcherBox’s monthly cost of $146 and about $23 cheaper per month if you use the subscription service. 

If you exclude the free gift that expires after a year, then the savings drop down to just $1, but ButcherBox is still the more cost-effective option.

For the Big Box, ButcherBox savings are even, well, bigger. To double the meat at Wegmans would cost about $341 versus ButcherBox, which costs $269 for a double order of the curated plan. That’s a total savings of $72 per month with ButcherBox.

Cost of ButcherBox items at a grocery store

November 2023 items Cost at Wegmans
Pork chops (2 lbs) $22.19
Chicken breast (3 lbs) $29.37
Ground beef (2 lbs) $16.78
Ribeyes (1.25 lbs) $54.73
Sirloin cap (1.5 lbs) $31.93
Gift: 3 lbs organic chicken thighs (first year only) $23.67
Total: $178.67
December 2023 items Cost at Wegmans
Burgers (2 lbs) $16.78
Premium steak tips (2 lbs) $45.38
Ground pork (2 lbs) $24.38
Boneless pork butt (3.5 lbs) $36
Drumsticks (5 lbs) $21.45
Gift: 3 lbs organic chicken thighs (first year only) $23.67
Total: $167.66
January 2024 Items Cost at Wegmans
Ground beef (2 lbs) $16.78
Stew beef (2 lbs) $34.98
Pork chops (2 lbs) $22.19
NY strip steak (1.25 lbs) $38.86
Chicken breast (3 lbs) $29.37
Gift: 3 lbs organic chicken thighs (first year only) $23.67
Total: $165.85
Average of three months: $170.72

So is ButcherBox as good a deal as it seems? For some, it is

steak steak

ButcherBox offers exceptional quality at better prices than your typical midrange grocery store.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You might be thinking this is a no-brainer, and have your mouse fired up ready to check out as a new ButcherBox subscriber; and that very well may be a smart money move. 

But it’s important to consider that ButcherBox specializes in high-quality meats and, in some cases, premium cuts. If you already buy organic poultry, wild-caught salmon and seafood and don’t mind splurging on a grass-fed ribeye steak, ButcherBox is clearly a better deal than shopping at a midrange or high-end grocery store. 

Plus, you don’t have to lug the meats home with you. Your haul of beef, pork chicken and fish shows up at your door, ready to be thawed or frozen for later.

Keep in mind…

If you don’t already buy premium meat, you might end up spending more

ribeye on wegmans website ribeye on wegmans website

Grass-fed ribeye at Wegmans is about $32 per pound. If you typically buy a few premium cuts of beef each month, you’ll get them for cheaper with a ButcherBox subscription. If you don’t, ButcherBox may end up costing you more. 

Wegmans/Screenshot by CNET

If you aren’t as particular about the type of meat you cook and eat, ButcherBox may end up being the more expensive option. While I didn’t run the numbers for non-organic poultry, non-grass-fed beef and non-humanely-raised pork, those varieties of meats are significantly cheaper than the higher-quality cuts included in ButcherBox’s deliveries. Even with the free monthly gift, ButcherBox would be a more expensive option than most supermarkets. 

If the quality of the meat you consume matters, and likewise, the treatment of animals during production, ButcherBox will not only save you time and effort versus a trip to the supermarket, it can save you real money, too. 

For more stories where We Do the Math, see how much meal kits cost versus buying the same groceries and how much you can save making soda water at home in a year. To beef up your kitchen skills, here’s the one trick chefs use to tell when steak is done and the best alternatives to expensive ribeye



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