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But hog growers have their own problem: porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or PEDv. It surfaced in the United States last spring, but accelerated this past winter. It poses no food safety threat to humans, but it has a very high mortality rate for piglets and so far has no cure.
“The primary catalyst for the pork price increase is the PEDv virus or the fear of it,” said Bill Lapp of Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, which specializes in food and commodities. “There’s been a concern about a lack of supply.”
Estimates over the size of pig losses from PEDv have varied widely. “There are still a lot of question marks on how severe it’s going to be,” Lapp said.
Consumers aren’t only feeling the effects of higher meat prices at grocery stores. Restaurant patrons are feeling the pinch, too, as are restaurant owners.
Rye Deli, a critically acclaimed eatery in Minneapolis, closed March 30, and high beef costs were a culprit. Rye had a beef-heavy menu, and its owner told the Star Tribune he couldn’t keep raising the price of sandwiches to keep up.
Meat price hikes tend to hit grocery stores before they hit restaurants, said Dennis Lombardi, a restaurant consultant with Ohio-based WD Partners. That’s because big restaurant chains tend to be locked into longer-term supply contracts, and use future markets to hedge their costs.
But eventually costs catch up. Just last week, Chipotle announced it was considering a 3 to 5 percent price hike, its first in three years. The company cited higher costs for beef — as well as avocados and cheese.
Chipotle will have company, Lombardi said. “You’re just seeing the beginning of restaurant price increases.”
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003