Butcher Box is a wildly popular meat and fish delivery service, which claims that the quality of their products is superior to what you’d get at a grocery store. All of their beef is grass-fed, their chicken products are sourced from organic and free range chickens, and their seafood is wild-caught.
But do these meat certifications even matter from a health context? And how does the price compare to similar products at a grocery store?
In this article we’ll answer these questions and critically analyze their claims of environmental friendliness.
Is Grass-Fed Beef Healthier?
Many grass-fed beef brands claim that their products are healthier than conventional alternatives, but are these claims accurate?
An extremely thorough medical review published in the Nutrition Journal in 2010 compared the health qualities of grain-fed and grass-fed meat.
The researchers found that grass-fed meat had higher antioxidant levels of compounds like glutathione, but more importantly the fatty acid profile of grass-fed beef was significantly healthier.
We know from previous medical research that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is a leading marker of systemic inflammation. A lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, closer to 1:1, is associated with better health outcomes. As detailed in the linked study, the ratio in Western diets is closer to 15:1.
The Nutrition Journal publication proved that the omega ratio in grass-fed beef is much more optimal than that in grain-fed beef. The ratios from grass-fed beef were: 1.77:1, 2.78:1, 1.72:1 and 1.96:1.
The ratios from grain-fed beef were: 8.99:1, 13.6:1, 10.38:1, 3.57:1.
The omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio in grass-fed beef is nearly 1:1, while the ratio in grain-fed beef is nearly 10:1.
We can conclude that grass-fed beef is significantly healthier than grain-fed beef, and that Butcher Box’s claims are accurate in this regard.
Is Wild-Caught Seafood Healthier?
Butcher Box advertises that all of their seafood is wild-caught, meaning it’s sourced from the ocean and not farmed fish enclosures.
One medical study compared the level of toxins and other pollutants in wild caught versus farmed fish, and found that levels were significantly higher in farmed fish. However the researchers noted that with the right quality control steps put into place, the farmed fish could be cleaner than the wild-caught fish in the future.
It’s also clear that oceans are becoming continually more polluted, with plastics and other pollutants, so even though wild-caught fish is less toxic for now, this trend is likely to reverse in the coming decades.
A more recent medical trial published in the Foods journal compared nutritional content of farmed and wild-caught fish, and found that the omega-3 content was 3x higher in the wild-caught fish. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids was also more optimal in the wild-caught fish.
We can conclude from the available research that wild-caught fish is healthier now than farmed fish, although we believe this will change in the coming decades.
Is Butcher Box Fairly Priced?
Butcher Box’s most popular product is their Classic Box, which costs $137 for 8-11 pounds (lb) of meat. They’re also running a promotion at the time of writing that provides customers with 2 lb of free grass-fed beef with every box indefinitely.
$137 for 12 lb of meat equates to $11.42/lb. This is slightly higher than other online retailers.
We broke down the cost of high-quality meat from Thrive Market and Amazon in a recent review:
Grass-Fed Beef 1 Pound (Lb)
- Amazon: $7.49
- Thrive: $12.49
Organic Boneless Chicken Breast 1 Lb
- Amazon: $6.99
- Thrive: $6.50 (per-unit cost for pack of 2)
Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon 1 Lb
- Amazon: $15
- Thrive: $24.41
It’s clear that Amazon has better prices on average than Butcher Box for consumers willing to shop for individual items.
Butcher Box also notes in their cart that they’ll be implementing a $9 price increase on April 26th of 2022, bringing the average price per pound to $12.17 even with the 2 lb of free beef.
For budget-conscious consumers, grass-fed beef usually costs under $8 per pound at grocery stores, and sardines are an excellent and cheap source of omega-3 fats that can be purchased for $1 at the Dollar Tree. We reviewed Dollar Tree health benefits in a recent budgeting article that price-conscious consumers may be interested in given recent inflation.
Ultimately Butcher Box is decently priced, and they have to bear increasing shipping costs because they offer free shipping to consumers, but they’ll never be able to compete on price with local retailers, and appear slightly more expensive than other online options.
Which Butcher Box Plan Do We Recommend?
For consumers who want to try Butcher Box, we recommend a Custom Box plan that’s high in seafood content.
As we detailed in the previous section, the price of grass-fed beef is relatively high at Butcher Box, but the price of seafood is reasonable and even cheaper than standard options.
A custom classic box is $159 for 9-14 lb, so we’ll assume 12 lb, plus the 2 lb of free grass-fed beef.
One of Butcher Box’s seafood options is wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, which is one of the most expensive and healthiest types of seafood. Not only is Alaskan sockeye rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s a source of a rare nutrient called astaxanthin which gives it its pink color. This nutrient is proven in medical studies to have a range of health benefits, such as anti-inflammation, anti-diabetic activity and cardiovascular disease prevention.
The cost of wild Alaskan sockeye is the same as cod on Butcher Box, while it would be 3-5x higher-priced at grocery stores.
For optimal health benefits and diversity of nutrients, we’d recommend a Custom Box with 2 lb ground bison, 6 lb wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, 3 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts and 2 lb of the free grass-fed beef.
We find this to be very reasonably priced at $159 (increasing to $169 on April 26, 2022).
It’s clear that a carefully-curated custom selection of Butcher Box products is a superior strategy for cost and health benefits to their standard plans.
Is Butcher Box Environmentally Friendly?
Butcher Box uses cardboard packaging, as detailed in their blog post about packaging sustainability, which is a great choice for minimizing environmental impact.
However they also utilize dry ice and an “insulating pad” which are almost certainly wrapped with plastic.
There’s no way to ensure that shipped frozen meat won’t spoil without insulation and dry ice, so there’s really no way around this until technological advances occur.
Butcher Box seems to be doing everything they can to minimize the effects of their packaging on the environment, and they are ahead of many other meat delivery companies by using a fully cardboard box.
It’s clear though that purchasing meat and seafood from local farmers, if possible, would have a lower environmental impact due to less plastic waste.
Butcher Box Pros and Cons
Here are some quick takeaways that consumers can use to evaluate whether they want to shop at Butcher Box:
- Curated selection with all healthy products
- More environmentally-friendly than competitors
- Extremely cheap wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon prices
- More expensive than buying individual items
- Worse for environment than shopping locally
- Prices increasing in late April 2022
Butcher Box FAQs
Is Butcher Box Worth It?
Butcher Box is likely worth it for consumers who have high discretionary income, because they do all of the work of sourcing and qualifying products for you. Every product they sell is high-quality, so you don’t have to analyze ingredient labels and research certifications on your own.
The service is also likely worth it to consumers without easily-accessible options for high-quality meat locally. If your local grocery store only carries conventional meat, Butcher Box would be a healthier option.
What Comes In An All Beef Butcher Box?
One of Butcher Box’s options is an All Beef box, which contains a variety of different cuts of beef. The cuts vary by month.
A Butcher Box blog post detailed that last month’s cuts for the All Beef Butcher Box were: 2 lb ground beef, 2 NY strip steaks, 1 lb premium steak tips, 2+ lbs of chuck roast, and 4 top sirloin steaks.
Crowd Cow Vs. Butcher Box?
Crowd Cow is another online meat and seafood delivery service. They actually offer the exact same 2 lb of free ground beef offer with every order that Butcher Box does.
Crowd Cow has cheaper beef options than Butcher Box at the time of writing. Their grass-fed beef costs $7.36/lb.
Butcher Box has much cheaper seafood options at the time of writing. The wild-caught sockeye salmon is $47.41/lb on Crowd Cow, which is more than 4x the per-pound price at Butcher Box.
Moink Vs. Butcher Box?
Moink is yet another online meat and seafood delivery service. Their box price is $159 for around 11 lb of meat and seafood, which works out to a very similar cost to Butcher Box.
Moink only offers two standard selection types with no customization, so we believe that Butcher Box is the superior option.
Is Butcher Box Organic?
Some of their products are, but not all. The brand specifies that their chicken is organic.
We don’t believe organic certification matters from a health context for animal products. What matters is whether the animals had access to pasture or ate grain. Butcher Box’s beef products are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished, which is the optimal standard for health benefits of beef.