Photo Credit:
Beef cattle grazing in a field in Brazil.

On July 19, Springfield Wholesale Meat Distributor, a kosher meat distributor, sent out a notice to customers that the prices of domestic beef were going to increase by as much as 79%, beginning the week of July 24. Prime whole rib would see the highest increase, at that 79%, while netted shoulder roast would only increase 7%, and 1st cut brisket would stay the same price. Most of the increases were around 39%. Springfield cited increases by its supplier, Solomon’s Meat, which would have an effect on stores and restaurants carrying its meat.

Hearing this news, Jews from the east to west coasts shared the flyer and accompanying articles about it, as well as stocked up on meat. But should the community really be sounding the alarm bells right now?

Ira Sina of Glatt Mart in Brooklyn. (Photo by Elan Kornblum)

Ira Sina, manager of the meat department of Glatt Mart in Brooklyn, is not surprised by this news. In fact, he’s known about it for 22 weeks now.

“Most people think it’s price gouging, but it’s not,” he said. “I know for myself that our net profit was down to almost zero for the last 22 weeks.”

Sina, whose grocery store has been in the community for 47 years, strives not to raise prices because he sees that customers can’t afford it.

“I’m also trying to defend Solomon’s, because I understand where they are coming from, and no one else does,” he said. “One or two supermarket owners understand what’s going on.”

According to Sina, there is a lack of cattle supply right now in the kosher and non-kosher worlds, which have both had to increase prices. But because there are fewer kosher consumers, which means less demand, the increases are higher.

“It’s not a kosher problem,” he said. “It’s a market problem as a whole.”

Sina also believes that other distributors, like Agri Star Meat and Poultry, “were already slightly higher than Solomon’s to begin with,” he said. “Solomon’s may have been too cheap up until now. It’s just an opinion, not a fact.”

In the meat distribution world, rumors are that there will be another increase in 2024 because there will be even less cattle available. Sina pointed out that meat from Argentina and Uruguay has not been affected.

“But if demand increases, so will the prices in those countries,” he said.

Elan Kornblum

In an article posted on July 23, Elan Kornblum of the Great Kosher Restaurants Foodies Facebook group, wrote in his group that he doesn’t think this increase will lead to the demise of restaurant dining.

“Generally speaking, if we can overcome Covid, we can overcome anything,” he wrote. “The kosher restaurant industry and their customers are resilient and creative and we will figure out a way [to] deal with this.”

Kornblum, who said restaurants may start using more Argentinian beef, recommended going for appetizers instead of main courses to save money.

And in a comment on his page to a member of the Facebook page, he explained that the prices of certain cuts of meat are going up “Because some cuts just aren’t popular[;] that’s where the demand factor comes in.”

He also stressed that it’s important not to blame the meat distributor, writing, “I know we’re going to have many of these conversations as we release new menus from restaurants and flyers from supermarkets. Main thing is to remember, don’t make them out to be the bad guys. They don’t want to raise prices, but they have no choice. As one manager told me, ‘People have to stop pointing fingers, it’s about the cost of doing business this hurts everyone.’”

Gabriel Boxer.

Gabriel Boxer, on the other hand, of The Kosher Guru is not optimistic about what lies ahead for kosher consumers.

“The cost of food and goods in general have only been rising the past years with no end in sight, and when a cost of good goes down, we rarely see that decrease in the kosher market,” he said. “I am truly petrified of what I will see in the coming days and the weeks leading up to the intense shopping season after camp, before school starts and the Jewish holidays.”

Although Sina has seen meat prices drop in the past – two years ago, prices went up for two months and then came back down – so far, it doesn’t look like the trend is going to reverse anytime soon.

“This time, we waited 22 weeks to raise prices,” he said. “My goal is to lower my margins and try to stay within the same net dollar amount I had before, so the increase for consumers will not be as high.”

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Kylie Ora Lobell is a writer and the president of KOL Digital Marketing, a marketing and PR firm for Jewish organizations, authors, and influencers.