Herbert Dohrmann is sober: “Reducing the prices would be the death sentence for anyone who would try that,” says the butcher. Dohrmann runs four branches in Bremen, regional quality meat, no organic, mostly regular customers.

Dohrmann and his 70 employees are still largely understanding of the sharply rising prices. However, Dohrmann has observed for a few weeks that his long-standing customers shop less frequently. “People who used to come twice a week now often only come once,” he says.

The reason for this is the high price increases. Hardly any food has become so much more expensive than meat. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the price for the biggest source of revenue, pork, rose by 21.2 percent in May compared to the same month last year. Poultry rose by 23.8 percent, beef and veal by 22.3 percent.

The inflation for the three product groups was about three times as high as the overall inflation rate. “For private households, the currently rising meat prices could be a reason to change their consumption behavior and buy less meat and meat products,” the statisticians analyze – and that in the middle of the barbecue season.

This hits the meat industry at a time when it is in a state of upheaval anyway. Last year, for example, the market leader Tönnies lost almost one billion euros in sales and still came up with 6.2 billion euros. At that time, it was the particularly low meat prices that put a strain on the butcher.

In addition, because of the swine flu, the Chinese export market, on which Tönnies had relied heavily in previous years, is no longer available. In percentage terms, Tönnies lost slightly more sales than the 1,445 larger companies in the meat industry as a whole, which turned over 8.8 percent less last year with 40.6 billion euros.

This also corresponds to consumer behavior: More and more people see themselves as vegetarians or flexitarians – and an increasing proportion of customers in Germany do not eat pork for cultural reasons.

Market experts have not yet figured out how the butchers’ sales will develop in the current year in the mixed situation of price increases and customer reluctance. “But it is clear that the economic situation in the entire meat industry is tense,” says meat expert Tim Koch from agricultural market researcher AMI.

He points out that the number of pigs kept in Germany fell by 9.7 percent in May – in line with the slaughter figures. For many pet owners, it makes economic sense to keep fewer animals due to overcapacities on the market. In addition to the sharply rising costs for feed and energy, a lower supply also causes prices at the meat counter to rise.

At the same time, part of the increase in costs is politically desired. Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) has just introduced a new tier system that is intended to promote more animal-friendly – ​​and more expensive – forms of husbandry. In addition, the grand coalition has stopped temporary work, which had mainly exploited the slaughterhouses to an extreme degree. However, this increases labor costs while at the same time labor is in short supply.

After all, the butchers were already prepared for declining sales. Because in the past two years, the corona pandemic has boosted sales: After all, the restaurants were closed for weeks. That boosted sales at the counter. However, the party service that many butchers offer was idle.

Nevertheless, the Bremen butcher Dohrmann, who is also involved in the guild and the nationwide industry association, can gain something from the decline in volumes. “If the appreciation for the product increases and customers shop more consciously, that’s generally positive,” he says.

He observes that his customers are making better judgments about the size of a cut of meat – and in doing so, they are reducing food waste. “The last five euros in your wallet aren’t so loose anymore,” he says.

The entrepreneur hopes that the higher price level will compensate for the volume losses in his checkout – and the butchers’ increased prices for refrigeration and things like cooking oil. Overall, the use of materials – including the purchase price of the meat – makes up about 40 percent of the price in the butcher’s shop.

The meat craftsmen can apparently still make a living from the rest: Dohrmann does not expect a wave of bankruptcies. However, some butchers may consider early retirement, he says. Since many cannot find successors for the capital-intensive business, the number of butcher shops has been falling for years.

For Dohrmann, an end to the meat inflation is not yet in sight for all these reasons. “I would be very happy if we stayed at this level,” he says. After all, he doesn’t want to lose any regular customers entirely.

There is at least one ray of hope for price-conscious buyers: Aldi confirmed a “Bild” report on Monday, according to which meat prices at the discounter are falling across the board – at least in the short term. Reason are currently more favorable purchasing conditions.

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