Where’s The Beef? Breaking Down Burger Prices

Calen McNeil, Co-Owner Big Wheel Burger


As a business owner, inflation’s on my mind all the time these days. If I’m not worrying about the cost of making tasty burgers, I’m worrying about the effects of inflation on my staff’s day-to-day lives, and even on my customers and how often they’ll be able to support us.

When you look at the purchasing power of your money, in 2013 our cheeseburger was $8.50 which in today’s buying power is equivalent to $10.64. During that same time period minimum wage costs have grown from $10.25 to $15.65 as of June 01 ,2022. At Big Wheel Burger we have always paid above minimum wage and recently introduced a living wage program that starts at $19.50 per hour. Balancing all of this makes pricing our product relative to our customers’ value perceptions challenging. When looking at the statistical data you can see how many of the price increases make sense.

One thing I think consumers are becoming savvier about is “shrinkflation,” which is when you get the same product at the same price, but poof, it’s somehow smaller or there’s less in the box. It’s sneaky and dishonest, but it’s also an important lesson for consumers: Price-per-volume is a much different thing than the overall sticker price.

When you’re buying food, it’s not about the price, it’s about how much every buck you spend gets you. It’s about volume.

The good news is no one is deliberately shrinking your burgers. Not at Big Wheel, and not at any of the national chains, as far as I know. (Phew!)

But what you may not think of when you’re reaching into your wallet to pay for a burger is exactly how that price breaks down by the ounce.


Best Cheeseburger Victoria


For instance, you probably know you’re paying more per ounce for beef at Big Wheel than you are at McDonald’s, but did you know you’re paying less per ounce at Big Wheel than A&W? At roughly $6.69 a burger, the 3-ounce Teen burger will set you back $2.23 an ounce versus Big Wheel’s big 5-ounce cheeseburger, ringing in at $2.15 an ounce. When you factor in the purchasing power of your dollar at Big Wheel Burger you are paying the same as you would have 8 years ago.

While A&W is a Canadian chain, Burger King is global, and their infamous Whopper tips the scales at $1.75 an ounce for a 4-ounce burger. And though the 4-ounce Dave’s Single at Wendy’s and McDonald’s 1.6-ounce cheeseburger are far apart and different in size, they both price out at $1.18 per ounce for those mass-farmed, frozen-patty burgers.

That’s not the end of the comparison, though, because it’s not just a patty you’re buying — you’re making a social and political choice every time you spend money.

That’s because Big Wheel burgers are made from Hank’s Grass Fed Beef raised on family farms in B.C., where cows range freely, and are finished in the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford). They feed on grass at all times like they should, without hormones. Hank’s uses Hydroponically grown wheatgrass, which allows them to grass feed all year round. This process also used 95% less water than is used in traditional agriculture farming for the 3-month finishing period.

Hank’s is the kind of provider I love to support — quality AAA Angus-cross herds, processed by hand with care in small batches, raised by small family farmers. We honour their ethical farming practices by never freezing our beef, ensuring its ground fresh for our burgers.

A great burger’s nothing without a great bun, though, and we don’t think the competition offers competition on buns, thanks to our not-so-secret weapon — Irene’s Bakery. Our locally made buns are a special order and a secret recipe prepared fresh daily by Irene’s, who have been making Victoria sweeter since 1985. At Big Wheel Burger we also use Island Farms for the ice-cream in our milk shakes and all our flavour syrups are made in house.

But that’s how the Big Wheel rolls. We source locally as much as we can, like buying other meats from Berryman Bros Farms here on the island and wherever else we can. 

And we do it all while staying carbon neutral. We compost everything, run our vans on bio-diesel, use sustainable packaging, and get involved in local initiatives in all kinds of social and ecological areas.

So, our burger price is about a lot more than just “price per ounce.”

Get anyone in a room with me for more than 15 minutes and they’ll walk out knowing two things about me — that I love food and I’m a numbers geek. 

That means I’m obsessive about finding that balance between giving you a great product at a great price, while also making operational choices that are political values statements – spending locally, using sustainable products and practices, being a fair wages employer, and giving back to the community.


Consumerism is a Political Choice

Spending money can be about making purchasing choices that help keep Victoria unique, with a strong independent business culture.

If you only go out once a month and you spend a couple bucks more on your meal to get it at Big Wheel, well, I’ll tell you a couple things that’ll happen:

One, you’ll be fuller, because you’re getting a big 5-ounce burger out of the deal. Hey! What’s not to like about that? Two, you’re keeping the local economy humming because that money’s getting doled out to Irene’s for the buns, Hank’s Grass Fed for the beef, and all kinds of other local purveyors, from Berryman’s to Hoyne’s and beyond. Plus, we’re creating lots of compost for regional farms and gardens, keeping the food cycle thriving locally. All of our compost is actually composted at the Fisher Road Facility in Cowichan.

When you spend that money at a global fast food chain, that local money is long gone. In fact, 4.5% of every buck you spend at Burger King goes to the multinational that owns the chain. 

Look, I’m a practical guy. I understand that, hey, maybe there’s just something about a Big Mac that you dig. I’d love if every burger you bought was from Big Wheel. (Or milkshake, or poutine, or hot dog, because we’re proud of those products too.) But it’s not realistic to expect that of you. 

Instead, all I ask is, think about where your money is really going. Think constructively about portion sizes, where products come from, the value that they provide, and quality you’re buying.

When people walk into Big Wheel, they get the old-timey feeling of burgers the way they used to be. Paper wrappers, fresh toppings, real beef, and service with a smile. Sure, it might cost a little more than those smaller burgers, but there’s a simple solution:


Come hungry, leave happy.

I hope I’ve made a compelling case for letting your money speak to your values by supporting Big Wheel on the merit of well-priced quality beef per ounce. If not, I hope our social mandates and passion for ecology and sustainability help make my case.

To that end, stay tuned for next time, when I tell you about one of my favourite local social causes, the FED, and how they’re working to end urban food insecurity and put food in people’s bellies — and their yards! I’ll tell you what they do, how we support them, and why it’s all so important.


Written by Steffani Cameron and Calen McNeil, co-owner and founder of Big Wheel Burger