As It Happens

Call it pastrami or smoked meat, despite price hike there's still an appetite

In delis from New York to Montreal, the cost of brisket is skyrocketing. And the smoked meat inflation is causing some to consider pulling pastrami from their menus.
Smoked meat sandwiches sit on the counter at Schwartz's deli in Montreal, Thursday, March 8, 2012. (The Canadian Press)

From Schwartz's in Montreal to the Yankee Tavern in New York, everyone's talking about sky rocketing brisket prices - that is, when they don't have their mouths full.

Yankee Tavern owner Joe Bastone says over the last few months he's had to raise the price of a pastrami sandwich from $8.95 to $12.95. He tells As It Happens host Carol Off, "Some people were saying it's a shortage of beef . . . I don't understand it."

What doesn't make sense to him is why brisket prices have gone way up while the other cuts he buys have remained pretty stable. 

Bastone has even posted a sign on the counter of his restaurant which reads, "Due to the increased price of pastrami, we at the Yankee Tavern apologize for the increase in prices from the pastrami items."

Jason Lebrun carves up smoked meat at Schwartz's deli in Montreal. (The Canadian Press)

Across the border at Montreal's temple to smoked meat, Schwartz's, the story is much the same. Schwartz's manager Frank Silva told CBC, "It's been soaring. Every month for the last year, we've been hit with an increase, usually $1.50 a kilo per month."

At Schwartz's you can still get two slices of rye, overflowing with moist, slow cooked meat for $9.35. A bargain, compared to New York prices.

According to analysts, brisket prices have gone up because of a combination of reduced supply and dramatically increased demand for beef imports in places like China.

In both New York and Montreal, however, people are still lining up for their smoked meat fix. And delis are still competing for bragging rights. In The New York Times recently, the owner of Loeser's deli called out Yankee Tavern for not being kosher.

Owner Fredy Loeser also threw down the gauntlet on pastrami preparation saying he "treats pastrami like you would treat your best girlfriend." 

But Joe Bastone refused to take the bait.

"I'm sure they're both good. He might want to say something about us not being kosher, but I'm not putting his product down."

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