The cost of doing business has never been higher for Chef Esdras Ochoa.
His Los Angeles restaurant, Mexicali Taco and Company, is now paying about a thousand dollars more a month for its beef supply, compared to just two months ago.
“And that’s a huge hit on us because we focus on meat,” Ochoa said. “Everything we pretty serve here is beef, and so we are trying to figure things out.”
He’s already increased his menu prices up to five percent.
On average, beef now costs $5.56 a pound at grocery stores. That’s a 47 percent increase from 2009.
Now Esdra said they are trying to push more non-beef dishes. “Yes, we’re maybe trying to push more seafood, so it’s kind of easier to keep our prices low,” he said.
Restaurants across the country are also feeling the pinch. Chipotle raised prices on its beef entrees by eight percent, while the Texas Roadhouse chain increased prices on all its menu items by about a percentage and a half.
Agriculture professor at the University Southern California, Professor Shon Hiatt, says the drought is mainly to blame for the rising cost of beef.
“In Texas and Oklahoma, where most of the beef in the United States is raised,” Hiatt explained. “They need grass, and the drought in Texas is really hurting this.”
United State cattle supplies are now at the lowest levels since 1951, and less beef means higher prices.
Ochoa hopes to launch his new menu items next month, since beef prices are expected to rise for at least another year. Experts say beef prices could plateau in the next year as consumers turn to cheaper meat alternatives.