This has been a tough year for big-picture thinking, so sometimes I like to focus on the little things. But the week of August 10, 2020, is taking those things away too: First there were the salmonella-tainted onions, then the listeria-threatened potatoes, limes, and oranges. Now, 2020 has come for our pepperoni, as the pizza topping could very well be the next food item to hit the scarcity list. According to Bloomberg, pepperoni costs are rising, and pizza shops are paying considerably more for the meaty disks now than they did in pre-pandemic times. A shop manager in South Dakota has seen prices rise from $2.87 per pound to a considerably higher $4.12. A restaurant owner in New York tells Bloomberg his cost per pound of pepp has gone up $2.
Part of pepperoni’s appeal is what’s making it hard to source now: It’s ordinarily very cheap. As Barry Friends, a partner at food service consultant Pentallect, explained to Bloomberg, some meatpacking facilities — which have come under close scrutiny as COVID-19 makes a large number of their workers seriously ill, leading to some deaths — have decided the labor-intensive process of making pepperoni simply isn’t worth the razor-thin profit margins. For those who are continuing to make the product, that labor-intensive process means it’s remained expensive, even as other meat products, like ground beef, have seen their prices drop since they were at the height of early-days panic buying and supply chain-related concerns.
It’s not just that supply is down. Pizza shops are among the minority of restaurants that are doing relatively well — some thriving, even — during the pandemic. And unfortunately, it’s small pizza shops that are experiencing this rise in pepperoni costs, while major chains remain unaffected: According to Bloomberg, big players often sign large contracts with pre-negotiated ingredient prices, insulating them from these kinds of fluctuations and spikes.
While a perfectly oily slice of pepperoni pizza might cost a couple dollars more for your local pizza-maker to produce, several shop owners told Bloomberg they don’t plan to increase their prices. As the world crumbles, at least we have these noble pizzeria owners to keep slinging slices at no extra charge — our heroes.