The Finance of Food: Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Guinness

Ever wonder how much money McDonald's makes with their "rare" McRib? Or how about uncovering the pyramid scheme of Girl Scout cookies and the revenue of thin mints brings back to corporate. Welcome to a new blog series, where we breakdown the financial side of popular consumer favorite food and beverages. I'm your host/blogger Will. There is no better way to start off the inaugural blog post with a toast to St. Patty's Day and dive into the delicacies of corned beef and Guinness beer.


So why do people celebrate St. Patrick's day? Well, it is supposed to be the celebration of feast days in honor of Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century. Word on the street is he pushed all the snakes out of Ireland too. Even individuals with no Irish descent, nor affiliation to Christianity, still go all out on for St. Patty's Day. According to a National Retail Federation 2021 St. Patrick’s Day survey, the average person will spend $40.77 per person on their celebrations, and overall Americans will spend about $5.14 billion on the holiday. The same survey says around 149 million people in the US plan to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. To add to that, the market value for the Leprechaun's pot of gold is around $1.6 million (1,000 1-ounce coins).


We all know gold is worth a pretty penny, but how much money do the Leprachauns and St. Patrick pull in on March 17th? If you look at the food, the most common meal is non-other than Corned Beef and Cabbage. The people of Ireland would celebrate the day with a meal of Irish stew and soda bread, very inexpensive items. When those Irish folk immigrated to America, they carried that legacy because those items were less pricy compared to pork and beef.


In today's society, the average cost of cabbage is about $0.60 a pound. According to CNN, there is always about a 70 percent surge in cabbage shipments prior to March 17. The same goes for Corned Beef, which is right around $3 a pound. To go deeper into these numbers, taking the average cost per person and the hundreds of millions of people who celebrate, and let's say they each eat a pound of corned beef and a pound of cabbage, that is $536,400,000 spent on meat and lettuce. Five hundred thirty-six million, four hundred thousand. My goodness.


Forget the food though, because St. Patrick's Day is known as a booze holiday. It's the third most popular drinking holiday overall, and the average person consumes around four drinks for the festivities. Although not the official beer sponsor of the Irish holiday, the most popular beer of Ireland has earned the rep for being the "Beer of St. Patty's Day". Most Irish Pubs sell the stout, but there is only one official Guinness brewery in America, located in one of the most Irish-American cities, Boston. Other than that, there are four other locations (Dublin, Malaysia, and three in Africa). However, if you were stuck at home, you can buy the beverage at most beer distributors and liquor stores, or even your local retailer (i.e. Target and Walmart in select states). For non-beer lovers, having a pint of Guinness in your hand is the ultimate clout move for the gram. On average St. Patrick's Day, over 13 million pints of Guinness will be consumed worldwide, which is 819% more than normal. Holy Sláinte. For beer as a whole, that's 175% more than any other given day. Let's say the average cost of a pint is $5. That equates to $65 million dollars of stout in one day. Change the price from $5 to $10, which is about the cost of a four-pack of cans, that total comes out to over $120 million. Again...Holy Sláinte. I guess you can say the real reason why the holiday is green is not for the shamrocks, but for the dollar bills.


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