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California’s Drought Contributing To Higher Beef Prices

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(CBS) Betty Yu
Betty Yu joined KPIX 5 in November 2013 as a general assign...
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SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The record drought in California may have meat lovers changing their eating habits. Over the past year, the price of beef has gone up significantly.

“These bone-in fillets are very expensive,” said Thomas Ricci, executive chef of LB Steak at Santana Row in San Jose. He said this is the highest beef prices he has seen in his 20-year career.

LB steak is trading some of its signature, premium cuts for less expensive ones.  The drought and increasing demand has cut the number of U.S. cattle to its lowest since the 1950s.

“It’s affected us greatly. Prime is a small percentage of the amount of beef that’s allotted in the country, so it’s made it really difficult for us to find prime throughout the country,” Ricci told KPIX 5.

Ricci said some cuts of beef have gone up as much as 20 percent since last year. The swanky steakhouse has passed some of the cost onto customers.  For example, the porterhouse used to sell for $52.  It’s now $10 more, but diners get a few more ounces.

Restaurants such as LB Steak are also trying to offset the high cost of beef by introducing more offbeat, affordable items. One of the items is Oaxacan braised beef cheeks.

“We figured if we varied our menu a little bit more, get people an option to maybe have a steak dish, share it between themselves,” Ricci said.

At the restaurant, there are also more seafood and lamb dishes on the menu.

Shoppers are also noticing changes at stores such as Zanotto’s Family Market in San Jose.

“I know that the prices are going up a little bit,” said customer John Wible.

Zanotto’s receives their beef from ranchers in the Midwest. Co-owner Fred Zanotto said he has already received notification of a possible jump in price.

“If it does increase, then we just pass it on, we have to stay in business with that price,” Zanotto told KPIX 5.

Industry experts said the higher prices are expected to continue through the summer barbecue season and the rest of the year.

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