Holiday season

Meat lovers are feeling the sting of higher holiday season prices for beef

Instead of serving beef three days a week, the owners of Pershing Heights Senior Living in New Kensington are now providing beef one day a week to residents due to high meat prices.

“People like me and the various community organizations and churches that I cook for are struggling to serve beef,” said Steve Kubrick of Oakmont, owner of Pershing Heights and community dinner helper.

Call it “meat flattening”. The price of meat continues to skyrocket, with ground beef up 17% and the most expensive steaks soaring nearly 30% in just one year, from November 2020 to November 2021, according to the US Department of Labor .

Experts cite a variety of factors for the increase, including inflation, supply chain issues and the pandemic causing a shortage of workers.

The $25-a-pound tenderloin and tenderloin roast at Giant Eagle’s Market District in Waterworks near Aspinwall sounds like a holiday dinner dream.

But it’s not for everyone. Some shoppers at Giant Eagle, the region’s largest grocer, are turning away from the more expensive beef.

“While interest in poultry has remained consistent, some customers are moving away from premium cuts of beef and choosing to explore different cuts of beef to meet their family’s needs,” said Dick Roberts, gatekeeper. word of Giant Eagle.

Roast beef offers a good choice for flavor, value and shopping budgets, he said.

It’s a big market there

Beef tenderloins and other premium cuts aren’t in high demand at Harrison’s community supermarket, said Bill Walters, meat manager at the grocer.

“The hams will sell out at this time of year,” he said.

Pork and chicken prices are stable and hams are well supplied at Community.

“The educated customer comes for the bargains,” he said.

Beef possibilities include rump roasts on sale for $5.99 a pound and rib roasts for $12.99 a pound.

Even better, the semi-boneless Sugardale ham is $1.38 a pound, but “you better get here soon,” Walters said.

Still, buyers who want the beef seem willing to pay for it.

There’s no shortage of customers buying fresh beef at Bardine’s Country Smokehouse in Crabtree, which raises its own cattle and buys beef from other sources.

“The meat is of high quality and demand has not been affected by higher prices,” owner Gary Bardine said. His smokehouse is a destination meat market with loyal customers who trust his product, he said.

Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review

Beau Horky works a busy shift the week before Christmas, cutting oxtail and soup bone, at Bardine’s Country Smokehouse in Crabtree.

However, Bardine worries about the impact of the control of the national market by just four major meat packers. He would like to see more opportunities for small meatpacking businesses.

The White House spoke out in September against the lack of competition among meatpackers, saying “the big four conglomerates control the majority of the market.” Other issues cited by experts for high meat prices include supply and demand, the covid-19 pandemic, labor shortages and increased spending in the supply chain. beef.

Dinner at the fancy restaurant

The desire and ability to spend $40 or more for a serving of prime rib or other premium cut at an upscale restaurant is a personal choice of the consumer.

“We have filet mignon and rib eye, and we keep buying them and we keep selling them,” said Bill Fuller, president of Big Burrito Restaurant Group, which operates Alta Via in Fox Chapel Plaza, Kaya, Soba. , Umi, Casbah and Eleven. in Pittsburgh, and the Mad Mex chain.

Fuller said meat prices have doubled on some of the premium cuts since a year and a half ago when his restaurants reopened after a shutdown at the start of the pandemic.

Fuller has raised the prices on his menus, especially for high-end beef dishes.

“We’re making less per plate on these items,” he said. “We can’t raise the price of the menu all the way because customers will be blown away.”

Joe Weaver, executive chef of DeNunzio Italian restaurants in Jeannette, Latrobe and Monroeville, agrees.

Considering all the expense involved in bringing premium beef to the table, Weaver said, “No one would pay for an $85 steak.”

Weaver said he recently purchased a case of certified Angus beef for $1,400.

For the holiday menu, the restaurant will pass on the additional charge but will also serve slightly smaller portions of filet mignon.

Given higher beef prices, DeNunzio is getting creative with entrees including sirloin steak and skirt steak, Weaver said.

But high meat prices hit hard, even with lower grades of beef.

The legendary Italian restaurant makes lots of meatballs for appetizers and wedding soup, buying 700-800 pounds of ground meat a week. The price of ground meat has nearly tripled, Weaver reported. Before the pandemic, the restaurant was paying 99 cents a pound; it now pays more than $3 a pound, he said.

Given the market, chefs carefully consider their meat purchases.

The Twisted Thistle in Leechburg has not served filet mignon recently, although it will offer the prized steak for an upcoming holiday meal package.

Owner Linda Alworth and her staff check the market to decide what’s best for their guests. Filet mignon is overpriced, but a New York steak is not and customers love it, she said.

“You can’t buy something overpriced and leave it there, because it’s too expensive for our customers in the area,” she said.

Hill Crest Country Club in Lower Burrell has seen a 25% to 35% increase in beef prices over the past year, said Dan Merchant, general manager.

“When you quote a Christmas meal in August, September and October, that’s a real pressure on the bottom line,” he said. “We will definitely have to review our prices next year.”

Mary Ann Thomas is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter .

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