Chucking a packet of boerewors in the shopping basket before a braai is almost second nature to South Africans. But if you haven’t been noticing the price increase for this braai favourite recently, chances are you weren’t really buying boerewors. It was just wors. Sausage.
Last week, a senior agricultural economist at FNB Agribusiness, Paul Makube, confirmed that meat prices are stubbornly high – so much so that their collective year-on-year increase of 10.7% drove up overall food inflation in August.
Boerewors lovers would know this is true, but those of us who favour sausage might be totally oblivious. You see, there’s a huge difference between boerewors and sausage. And the meat content of products labelled both “boerewors” and “mince” is actually legally prescribed in Mzansi.
Bennie Nothnagel, a meat specialist for a leading retail chain, tells Food For Mzansi the legal requirements for sausage to be labelled as “boerewors” include a meat content of at least 90%. This leaves only 10% for spices, water and condiments such as vinegar or another local favourite, Worcestershire sauce.
Of the meat content, at least 70% must be lean muscle fibre and the rest fat, but no other tissue like liver or kidney may be in the mix. “These requirements are Gazetted and regulated, and it means boerewors must contain a really high ratio of good quality meat.”
The ratio of beef to pork or lamb will further influence the price of a specific brand of boerewors – with lamb tipping the scales to the more expensive side and pork doing the opposite.
The price of casings
There are many reasons why the price of boerewors have skyrocketed. Increased animal feed prices play a huge role, but so does another factor that most people don’t even think about: casings. (For the people at the back of the class, sausage casing, also known as sausage skin or simply casing, is the material that encloses the filling of a sausage.)
Casings have a significant influence on boerewors prices, contributing up to 7% of the shelf price. Interestingly, Nothnagel says, consumers in Gauteng seem to prefer a thicker boerewors, made with pork casings, while shoppers in the Western Cape more readily pick up a thin boerewors made with sheep’s casings.
And there’s a slight shortage of sheep’s casings… Leading manufacturers furthermore look for good quality casings with a consistent thickness, good length and without visible veins – and pay accordingly.
Adding the cost of maintaining mincing and hydraulic stuffing equipment, more intensive labour, and VAT, further explains the price. “Good quality boerewors isn’t cheap,” says Nothnagel.
3 top tips for Food For Mzansi readers
Avoid buying at the end of the month: Nothnagel says meat prices fluctuate so much, that meat is more expensive when demand is high, even when it’s simply the week after pay day. Shopping for meat in the middle of the month could save you some money.
Buy and freeze for Christmas: If you can afford it, start stocking up on festive-season meat now as prices are expected to rise even more towards the end of the year.
If it doesn’t say “boerewors”, it’s not: If you want bang for your buck, it may be worth buying true boerewors after all. Even if a well-known prefix like “Grabouw”, “Rooikrans”, “Oukrans” or something similar is used, if the label only says “wors” and doesn’t expressly state the word “boerewors”, the meat content is allowed to dip to 75%, leaving room for fillers like soya.
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