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Meat Prices Rise as Grilling Season Kicks Off

Bay Area restaurants are faced with tough choices as the price of meat soars. Labor shortages, high fuel costs, the drought and now a cyberattack have impacted meat production.

Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley is known for its delicious pastrami sandwiches. But customers won’t be able to get them this summer as the restaurant is closed for the foreseeable future. It’s all about the beef brisket pastrami at Augie’s Montreal Deli but owner Lex Gopnik-Lesinski said the price of beef has gotten too high to handle.

“The cost of that raw product that has to be processed by a copacker in Northern California has more than doubled,” he said.

Augie’s was already charging $15 a sandwich, though the deli made it through the pandemic.

Gopnik-Lesinski said the price of goods has made it impossible to stay open. So, he’s decided to temporarily close.

“The guilt I’d have to deal with charging $30 for a sandwich and it’s a damn good sandwich, don’t get me wrong. But the guilt I’d have to deal with doesn’t make sense to do that to our customers,” he added.

The meat industry has been hit with challenge after challenge: a major labor shortage, high fuel costs, the drought and just this week a cyberattack on the nation’s second largest meat producer.

All of it coming as more restaurants are reopening and demand is up.

“It’s really not good for anyone when the prices get this extreme,” said Steven Maxey with the California Beef Council.

Maxey said the meat industry is working to ramp up staffing and meet demand, but when the cost of production rises, prices will follow.

“It’s never good for the meat industry when you have markets like this and we’re doing our best to normalize things and bring it back in bounds,” Maxey said.

Gallegos Mexican restaurant is barely hanging on. Owner Isaura Gallegos said she’s scared she may have to close the family business she’s been running for 25 years. She’s struggled through the pandemic and now the high price of meat could be the final straw.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have that much money,” she said.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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