By Tyler Durden
Restaurants have suffered throughout the virus pandemic, and the shortage of everything doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon. We told readers in June about a worsening crabmeat shortage that sent prices soaring. Heading into September, crabmeat prices soared to record highs, forcing restaurants to either pass along the costs to consumers or remove crab products from menus.
One of the top crab restaurants in Baltimore, Maryland, called Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, serves customers Maryland crab cakes, steamed crabs, crab soup, and other types of seafood. The restaurant ships crab cakes to customers all over the country and recently warned about “menu prices have recently increased due to the international crabmeat shortage which has decimated our industry.”
Gail Furman is one of the owners of Max’s Taphouse in the Inner Harbor region of Baltimore. She told ABC News crabmeat prices are at “astronomical” levels that are forcing her to “remove crab products off our menus.”
“Everyone knows about crab cakes and crab meat in Maryland. The price per pound has gone up from $21 a pound. Yesterday, it was $52 a pound, which is astronomical, so a lot of us have had to take crab products off our menus,” Furman said. “People just aren’t going to pay the prices we would need to charge to produce that product.”
“Every supply chain that you look at is broken,” Furman said. “Because of the limited labor, because of the limited product out there, products and costs are dramatically increasing.”
“Chicken wings, pre-pandemic, they were roughly $45 to $50 for a case. Last week, they were $196 a case,” Furman said.
Another restaurant owner just south of Baltimore told local news WJZ that crabmeat prices continue to skyrocket, which has forced menu prices to edge higher.
“It does hurt, and with COVID, we’re way behind in our sales and our break-even points,” said CindyLee Floyd, the owner of Floyd’s Crossroads Pub.
She had to raise crab cake prices by $4, but that wasn’t enough to cover her costs.
“Over the weekend, we changed it to $6,” she said. “We’re not losing money. We’re just barely breaking even.”
Bill Sieling, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association, told WJZ that soaring prices are due to “just the old law of supply and demand.” He said there’s no shortage of workers in the labor market and added a lack of mature crabs is the problem.
“Right now, more people want to purchase crab and crab meat than there is crabs and crab meat,” said Sieling.
Just north of Baltimore City in a suburban area called Cockeysville, Pappas Restaurant told local news WBALTV about the shortage of crabmeat.
“It is in very short supply. The quantity is not there, the quality is not there, and they’re asking for enormous prices,” Pappas Restaurant Group CEO Steve Pappas said.
Pappas said he can no longer keep crab cake prices low due to soaring wholesale costs. He had to raise crab cake dishes by $3 and expects to go up even more.
“If we raise the price the same amount that crab meat has gone up, it would be $60 a crab cake. Right now, it’s $25.99 for two sides and for one crab cake,” Pappas said.
Pappas said crabmeat costs between $50 to $60 a pound. He said he couldn’t get colossal blue crab and jumbo lump due to supply woes.
“I think there is a shortage of workers, a shortage of transportation and just like many other industries right now, it’s hard to find products of any sort,” Pappas said.
Year-to-date, blue crab meat prices are at record highs. As per individual restaurant reports above, there’s reason to believe crabmeat prices per pound are currently between $50-$60.
By the pound, some websites are selling the meat for up to $121 per pound, shockingly high considering prices were in the $19 to $30 range for the past half-decade.
It’s not just blue crabs that have soared in price. According to Sea Food News, king crab prices are well above seasonal averages as the market is tight and demand remains robust.
… and prices for Asian blue crabs are surging.
For US importers, buying crabs overseas means paying record-high shipping rates and delays.
Some on social media are pointing out the crabmeat crisis at Maryland restaurants.
For crab processors, their costs have doubled since the pandemic and are being pushed to restaurants, who in return raise menu prices.
The ripple effect of this all is crushing the low and middle classes the most as hyperinflationary food prices shows no signs of stopping.
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