The 10 Best Cities for Meat Lovers in America
We're raising the steaks and ranking the meatiest cities in the nation. The results are sizzling!
These days, it seems as though there are more food fads going around than ever before. Seriously, I’m starting to have trouble keeping my friends straight—are they the one who is doing gluten-free-vegan? Or perhaps the dairy-free paleo? Raw foods? Brown foods? Foods that only fall from the plant naturally?
In my recent move to San Francisco, these weird food fads have only become more apparent, but luckily, many of the restaurants here cater to veggies and vegans of all types. With all of the crazy specialty restaurants sprouting up around here, though, it seems as though one group has been left out of the freshly tossed mix: carnivores.
Never fear, my meat-eating friends; just because SF has given meat a bad rap (and no, I’m not talking about a delicious bacon wrap), doesn’t mean there aren’t other cities out there to satiate your carnivorous cravings. With several criteria and a bag of organic beef jerky in hand, I set out on a mission for the Movoto Real Estate blog to discover which 10 cities are the very best for meat-maniacs. They are (with a tie for the final spot):
So how in the fillet did Florida, of all places, end up in the top 10—three times, no less? And where, in the name of ribs, is Texas on this list? Tuck in your bib, y’all, grab some wet wipes, and read along to find out how we got to the meat of this list. Warning: may cause salivating.
How We Sliced It
Just like our other Big Deal Lists, in order to cook this one up I needed several key ingredients—namely, seven ranking criteria. Like a grill master testing her seasonings, a barbecue baron slathering her meats, or, well, a writer comparing data, I looked at each of the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. based on these seven criteria:
- Steak houses per capita
- Butchers/meat shops per capita
- Barbecue restaurants per capita
- Burger joints per capita
- Hot dog vendors per capita
- Number of National BBQ Festivals annually
- Cattle ranches within 15 miles
Each city was ranked from 1 to 100 based on these criteria, with 1 being the best and 100 being the worst for America’s meat-eaters. Then, I sent the results to a meat-processing factory, diced them up, smooshed them back together, and came up with an average Big Deal Score for each city—and something that looked a lot like pink slime. The lower the city’s Big Deal Score, the better it was for carnivores. For more on how we come up with our trademark Big Deal Lists, check out this page.
Aside from questionable pink faux meat, there are a couple of other things that you should be aware of in this post. First of all, much of our data comes from the crowdsourced review site Yelp—apart from the number of annual barbecue festivals and cattle ranches nearby. But more on that in a moment—first, grab your steak knife and let’s bite into our first criteria.
Steak: It’s What’s for Dinner
I think Julia Child put it best when she said “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” A juicy, tender steak is the epitome of a carnivore’s delight, and because of this, I chose “steak houses per capita” as the number one criterion.
Honestly, I thought New York City would rank among the highest in this one, but because of its large population, it ranked number 75! At least it didn’t come in last—that honor was reserved for St. Paul, MN; and surprisingly to me, at No. 1 was Orlando, FL. To put this into context, think of it this way: New York City has one steakhouse per every 31,469 people, while Orlando can offer one steakhouse per 2,672. That’s like the size of one buffet in Vegas.
Let’s Not Butcher this List
The next criterion I went with was the number of butchers and meat shops per capita—because what says “I love meat” more than a person whose trade, by definition, is simply to “cut up and sell meat in a shop”?
Cincinnati ranked No. 1 in this category, with one meat shop per every 4,488 residents, while at the bottom of the list was St. Petersburg, FL, where they have only one meat shop per 244,997 people. Yes, that is literally one butcher for their entire population. Either they’re not big on meat, or Bill the Butcher is due for a holiday.
Barbecue—Not Reserved for the South
When I first looked at the rankings of barbecue restaurants per capita and didn’t find a Texas city at No. 1, I was surprised; but when I found only one in the top 10, I thought I’d flubbed the recipe; burnt the brisket; you know, messed up my calculations. But the numbers don’t lie.
Because I calculated the number of barbecue restaurants per capita, Honolulu actually came in No. 1. Close contenders for first were Atlanta, GA, and news to me, Birmingham, AL. Perhaps not surprisingly, St. Paul, MN came in dead last, with just two barbecue restaurants for their entire population. Something about frigid temperatures… it just doesn’t scream baby back ribs, does it?
Burger Joints per Capita
You know what goes great with a main course of barbecue? A side of hamburger. Now, I’d love to tell you that this was where Minnesota grabbed its frozen buns and got back into the race, but it turns out, St. Paul is just as lacking in burgers as it is in barbecue, with a sad 10 total burger places for its population of nearly 290,000. The top five in burgers per capita were Orlando, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Baton Rouge, respectively.
Hot Dog Vendors per Capita
Since I was on a meat roll (yes it’s a thing), I decided to complete my predator’s pyramid with the final food group: hot dogs. Winston-Salem came in first with 45 hot dog vendors for just over 230,000 people.
For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at what I thought was the land of hot dogs: New York City. They only have 89 hot dog vendors for their population of over 8 million, putting them in the bottom ten as far as hot dogs per capita. Will hot dogs go the way of banning trans-fats in New York? What’s next—doing away with 16 ounce sodas?!
Barbecue: Let’s Celebrate
I love the idea of barbecue festivals. Why? Because they are celebrating nothing more than barbecue itself. And what do they do to celebrate this glorious meat? They eat it. Unfortunately, not all cities are lucky enough to have such festivals, and in fact, only half of our top 10 even have one national BBQ festival (though Cincinnati, OH has two!).
While most cities had zero national barbecue festivals per year, and some had one to two, the clear winner here was Kansas City, MO with a finger-licking good total of six national barbecue festivals per year.
Is It Local?
For the final criterion in this city guide to gamey gluttony, I decided to wrap things up by focusing on the animals themselves—you know, before they’re sitting on your plate next to your dinner salad. Now, just because a meat lover might be more inclined to eat Bessie the Cow rather than watch her graze, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t care how she wound up as dinner in the first place.
Today’s conscientious carnivore cares about eating locally—it promotes local ranchers and reduces the carbon footprint of shipping meats across great distances. That’s why my last criterion is the number of cattle ranches within fifteen miles of the city. Steaking its claim at No. 1 was Scottsdale, AZ with 40 nearby cattle ranches per 221,020 people.
Wrapping Things Up (in Bacon)
How does a carnivore finish a heavily meat-laden meal? Probably with a light dessert, actually; all that protein is filling. So consider these parting words your aperitif.
Basically, if you are a meat lover supreme, the South seems to be a safe bet for you—North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana—and of course, some surprises like Cincinnati and Honolulu. As far as the places to avoid go, you’ll want to steer clear of Los Angeles, North Las Vegas, Jersey City, St. Paul, and Indianapolis—even more than usual if you’re a carnivore.