Grabbing a deli sandwich used to be a surefire way to get a reasonably priced lunch. But with beef prices steadily rising, an old deli staple is becoming troublingly expensive: As the New York Times puts it, “Pastrami is in crisis.”
In 2014, the average price of brisket—which is what pastrami is made from—went up 41 percent. And prices are already up an additional 14 percent this year. Suppliers have passed those increases on to sellers, and with little relief in sight, sellers are starting to pass additional costs on to customers.
Joe Bastone, owner of Yankee Tavern in the Bronx, got down and dirty with the numbers in speaking with the Times. His supplier has raised prices from $5 per pound to more than $9. That means he’s had to raise the price of a pastrami sandwich by $3, to $12.95, to maintain the same level of quality.
Art Rabin, who manages Liebman’s Kosher Delicatessen, also in the Bronx, said they had to raise prices about eight months ago. “Every few months, we get a letter that the price is going up,” he was quoted as saying.
So what’s driving costs? The usual culprit: supply and demand. Cattle inventory is at a 60-year low, according to one expert. Meanwhile, brisket and all its brethren (such as pastrami and corned beef) are as popular as ever.
So what’s a pastrami-loving New Yorker to do? Maybe convince the mayor to apply something like rent control to pastrami prices.