Price of meat surging, local butcher says worker shortage to blame

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — From gas to rent to food, prices are surging as America emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, and that includes the cost of meat and poultry.

Tom Eickman, president of Eickman’s Processing in Seward, says he believes the reason for the price increase relates to the current U.S. labor shortage and the need for workers.

“If I’m well under the prices on those, all of a sudden I have no inventory left, because I’m the cheap guy on the block,” Eickman said. “We’re just trying to get people in, get people moving that product. Ourselves, we’re seven individuals short [of a full work team].”

Eickman says he hasn’t seen an application in five weeks, an issue he says nearly every industry is facing right now.

“Everyone is in competition for the one individual who does want to go back to work right now, and they have a plethora of places to choose from,” he said.

Meat prices are jumping by the hour, he says. “Since the pandemic hit, all of a sudden, you’ll see $1.50-$2 in an hour, even sometimes, on product.”

As a result, restaurants are having to make tough choices.

“That menu doesn’t just change overnight… As I raise prices to them, they have to figure out how they can either pass that on to the consumer, or they can kind of work that in,” Eickman said.

Carrie Severing is the manager at Smoking Coop Barbeque Pit in Belvidere. said, “You don’t want the prices to go too high, because you don’t want the customers to get upset. But, at the same time, we still have to cover our end of the business running, and paying our employees.”

Severing says raising prices wasn’t what she wanted to do.

“We like the families who come out and we want families to still be here, so that’s why we’re trying to keep it where families can still afford,” she said.

Eickman says a change could be coming soon.

“They (meat prices) are starting to soften, so we might be starting to see a little relief,” he said.

Restaurants are asking that customers refrain from posting bad reviews because they were forced to raise prices, and say they hope to bring prices down when the market prices drop.

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