Why Is Tofu So Expensive ? Here’s What’s Really Happening

Tofu is a great food that is enjoyed by many people. While it’s a grocery staple of choice for many vegetarians, tofu can be enjoyed by anyone! It can also be prepared in a variety of ways and can be incorporated into many recipes.

For some reason though, tofu lovers always have to pay more for their choice of protein. You’d thin that being made from a plant would make tofu an inexpensive food item. Apparently that’s entirely untrue, as tofu-based meals are billed just as high as regular meat meals, in some cases even more.

So let’s see why tofu ends up being so expensive !

tofu expensive

Why is tofu so expensive?

Tofu is more expensive because in America soybeans are mostly used to make soybean oil and animal feed. That is the only part covered by subsidies, and producing tofu means less revenue for soy farms.

Another reason is that the vast majority of the population is not vegan, nor vegetarian. This means that meat is in high demand, so it’s cost is brought down to meet demands, through subsidies. Tofu isn’t as popular or in demand, so it’s still more of a niche product.

There’s also the fact that soy farms take up a very large amount of space, that could otherwise be used to more profitable crops. Crops such as wheat or corn being in more revenue for farmers than soybeans.

In some places tofu is actually inexpensive. For example in Europe and Asia tofu is a very cheap protein alternative, because the production of beef, and the feed necessary (usually corn) isn’t high on the government’s priority list.

We’ll cover all those reasons in depth in the following section, and answer a few common tofu questions towards the end.

Soybeans are subsidized in America

Alright, now let’s settle this one. It may sound like a conspiracy theory of sorts, but in truth it’s just people going after money, profit, and what the majority asks for. Keep that in mind, the majority.

There are several industries that are subsidized in America. This means that certain foods or crops are covered by the government, so the farmers don’t lose as much revenue when growing and selling those crops. But there are clauses for those subsidies, and soybean is meant to produce soybean oil, and animal feed.

The tofu we see in stores is not covered by the government, so it’s all out of the farmers and producers’ pockets. This means that they now have to charge consumers the money they would’ve gotten for the government if they sold soy for soybean oil or animal feed. They’re just covering their losses, from a strictly business point of view.

So that’s one added tax, or fee, or what you want to call it. Further, each farmer sells to a producer, who sells to a supermarket, who sells to you. There are supermarkets that make their own tofu, or farmers that produce and sell their own tofu.

Those are rare, and may be overpriced compared to most tofu brands. Again, just to cover their losses.

Tofu isn’t always expensive

The main reason tofu is inexpensive in other places of the world is because America has such a love for beef. That love means lots of cows have to be fed to meet the demand for beef. Corn is a cheap and efficient animal feed, so lots of corn is grown to feed lots of cows.

According to beef2live.com the top 4 beef producers are America, Brazil, European Union, and China. America is in the lead with 20% of total global production in 2020, and has been the top producer for decades.

This is reflected in the subsidies. Livestock is subsidized for beef and milk, and other foods are subsidized to enable livestock farming. In a way, it makes sense. Consumer demand is beef, then beef must be provided.

There are cleaner, cheaper options, yes, but beef has become a part of America and it’s here to stay. Turning consumer preference from beef to chicken, fish, or more vegetables is difficult. That’s an entire book’s worth of discussion and we’re not going into it.

Tofu isn’t as popular as meat

Related to what we were just talking about, you know that tofu has a small section in supermarket shelves. You can see fluctuations in price, if you look at younger neighborhoods or downtown areas.

Tofu is mostly loved by millennials (not only, but we’re a large majority of consumers) so younger neighborhoods will stock more tofu since it’s more in demand. More traditional neighborhoods may stock more beef, because that’s the demand in the area.

However even in the young or hip neighborhoods, tofu or tofu-based meals may be expensive because it’s a fairly trendy food. And it’s often placed in the health food section, and marketed towards people that are willing to pay more for healthy foods.

Which isn’t fair, that’s true. But it’s the way things currently are, and we’re just here to present the facts, answer questions.

Is there anything else we can do ?

Aside from switching from tofu to a cheaper protein source, we’re not sure there’s any solution consumers could apply. Other protein sources could be beans and rice (an almost complete protein replacement).

Mushrooms are another option, and they take up flavor very well. We guess it’s easier if you’re vegetarian and consume a lot of dairy, as an alternative protein source.

What does tofu taste like?

That’s a good question. Tofu is generally described as being somewhat sweet with a hint of nuttiness. However, some people describe it as having almost a complete lack of flavor at all.

Tofu does not have a strong flavor overall, which makes it a great inclusion for other recipes because it will largely take on the flavors that are part of the dish.

What is a simple way to cook tofu for those new to it?

Get a package of tofu and open it up, cutting the tofu product into cube pieces. Then add some butter or oil to a pan on the stove, heating the pan on medium-high. Then add your tofu pieces, letting each side cook. Flip each piece after a minute or two, letting the tofu brown.

When all of the tofu is lightly browned, you can take it off the pan to eat or add some sauce, such as an Asian stir-fry sauce, for flavor. You can also easily stir fry some vegetables in the pan after to go with your tofu too.

Is tofu only for adults?

It really depends on taste and preference. Some children may enjoy the taste and texture of tofu, while others may just not have any interest in this food. As with any food, it varies based on the individual, but tofu is not only for adults.

Should tofu be rinsed before cooking?

Tofu does not need to be rinsed or cleaned before it is cooked. It does, however, require draining the liquid and water that the tofu comes packed in before it is ready for preparation and cooking.

Can tofu be overcooked?

Any food can be overcooked. Tofu is best when brought to a golden brown and even level of cooking. Just be sure not to cook it too long on its own and find that happy medium.

Can tofu be dehydrated?

The answer is yes! If you have a dehydrator, dehydrating tofu is easy. Simply add whatever spice you would like to the tofu to add some flavor. Then lay your pieces or strips of tofu with the spice side down on the dehydrator. You can also add spice to the tops of the tofu once this is done. Cover and run on high for three to four hours and your tofu is done! You’ve now got your own version of tofu jerky to enjoy.

Can you bake tofu?

Yes, you can bake tofu. It’s an easy and tasty way to enjoy this food! All you need is an oven and a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and then cook the tofu strips on the sheet for fifteen minutes. Remove, turn over the tofu, and then cook for another fifteen or until the tofu is as done as you would like it to be.

If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.