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Beef Prices Pressure Local Restaurants

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ASHLAND, Ore. – A sirloin steak sizzles on the grill of Omar’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant. A year ago that popular cut cost the restaurant just under $4.00 per pound, now it costs them over $4.60.

“Restaurant owners here in town are very aware of it,” said co-owner Chris Del Monaco. “It’s a tough time right now.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices across the country are rising about half a percentage point each month. Beef is leading the way.

According to local butchers, it’s by a long shot.

“Nationally-wise they say it’s going to go up 13%,” said Cameron Callahan, owner of The Butcher Shop. “I’ve already seen a 33% increase in our beef prices.”

Local ranchers say drought conditions have pushed up the price of feed, forcing them to cull as much as half their herds and leading to the lowest beef production in 63 years.

Meanwhile foreign demand is stretching that supply thin.

“We’re now exporting to Japan again,” said Callahan. “At that crucial time when we’re low on cattle, we’re now exporting more of that cattle when we were not doing that before.”

Callahan says he hasn’t seen a drop in demand for beef yet, but he predicts it’s a matter of time before prices become too much and customers switch to poultry or fish.

Meanwhile, steakhouses like Omar’s can’t afford that luxury. They say it won’t be long until they have to re-tool and re-price their menu, testing just how far we’re willing to go for that precious beef.