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Restaurant owners attributing price increases on meat to drop in labor at meat processing plants

“Anything that has to be deboned is hard to get because they don’t have the labor right now with everything going on right now to debone it. Stuff with a bone in it, pretty common to get,”said Leupold.

Posted: May 7, 2020 7:21 AM
Updated: May 7, 2020 8:26 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) As many restaurants are just beginning to reopen this week after months of being shut down, they're facing yet another financial burden. 

Meat prices are increasing as some protein is in short supply. Industry insiders said beef prices are the highest they've been in decades. 

A local St. Joseph steakhouse said the meat supply disruption is affecting their business. 

“We’re not ones to go out and raise our menu prices. We’re just gonna have to suffer for as long as we can and make cuts in other directions to stay in business,”said Don Leupold, co-owner of Hoof and Horn. 

Nationwide, meat demand is up 40 percent while production is down 25 percent. The disproportion in demand and labor is resulting in shortages and meat costing a pretty penny. 

“What we’re seeing is upward prices in your briskets, your ground beefs. Your higher ends cuts are staying about the same as it was 3-4 months ago,”said Leupold. 

The difference in price between the cuts of meat all comes down to labor. 

“Anything that has to be deboned is hard to get because they don’t have the labor right now with everything going on right now to debone it. Stuff with a bone in it, pretty common to get,”said Leupold. 

Restaurant owners attribute price increases to the drop in labor at meat processing plants. 

“What I’m seeing is we’re running about 50% capacity in the meat packing houses across the country,”said Leupold.

Across the board, suppliers are only getting a fraction of their meat orders. 

“One said he ordered 40,000 lbs of pork. He received 6,000 lbs,”said Leupold. 

But, brokers said there is more than enough meat in storage. 

“Our storage level for meat is big. We have tons of meat in storage. So, I don’t know why we’re having such a hard time at grocery stores and stuff and people putting limits on it because the storage numbers on it are huge,”said Leupold. 

Panic buying is being linked to grocery store shortages. 

“If customers are panic buying that’s where you end up with increased prices and shortages in the grocery store,”said Kim Cordova, Local United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. 

So, weighing the price, restaurant owners said shoppers might as well buy the steak. 

"A good steak versus a hamburger. For the quality of meat, why wouldn’t you want to eat steak?”said Leupold. 

Leupold expects this meat supply disruption to last for another 3-4 months.

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Monday will start out chilly for northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas and then warm into the 40s as low cloud cover finally clears out. This week will see gradually warming conditions through mid-week with highs into the upper 40s to mid-50s.
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