If we analyze beef prices for the last twelve months (March 2021 to March 2022) in Belen, we see that the cumulative adjustment has reached almost 11%. In practice, the percentage reported by the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Social and Economic Research (Dieese) means what workers have long noticed: the price of red meat has skyrocketed. As a consequence, the product is already beginning to decrease in quantity and be replaced by hot dishes and dishes sold in the state capital of Para.
Pictured at the entrance of a small restaurant set up in the Ver-o-Peso meat market, the listed variety of proteins exemplifies one of the strategies adopted by the autonomous Nazaré Martins, 60, to get around high food prices. red meat. In addition to the irresistible fried meat option, customers can also choose between fried sea bream, grilled ribs, braised pork, liver, braised chicken, onion pepperoni and egg bowl. “We have to invent. We try to give more opportunities to reduce the amount of red meat, but it is not possible to completely abandon it. Customers charge for meat.”
Nazaré has been selling food since the age of 22 and says he does not remember the previous period, when the situation was as difficult as it is now. While meat prices have risen sharply, she points out that other proteins, such as fish itself and even beef jerky, are also very expensive, which also helps drive down profit margins. “We are very sorry about this increase in meat, even working within the Market. We try to replace it all the time, but fish is also very expensive, so the truth is that we continue to choke on our stomachs.”
Despite the reasonable movement in the restaurant on weekdays, the autonomy remembers that the demand for dishes in the establishment has dropped significantly. What has helped hold the bills for now is the warm ones sold with delivery. However, she says that most of the time she spends more on producing warm than she makes a profit from the business. “People pay more than they take home. The price is really expensive.” “But we continue to sell food for 15 reais. It can’t grow because the customer won’t buy otherwise.”
Another solution Nazaré found to avoid losing customers was to make smaller versions of PF and hot dogs with less food so they could be sold for 10 and 12 reais depending on the protein chosen. “In order to sell cheaper, you need to cut products.”
Self-employed Messias Barros, 56, also had to come to terms with the need to reduce the amount of protein going into his plate. So that he could keep the price of PF at R$15, instead of three pieces of meat, he began to serve only two pieces per meal. “I had to reduce the amount, because there was no other way out. Instead of three pieces, put two pieces of meat. If a customer complains, we need to explain the situation as it is, and if they want more meat, we offer the option to charge a little more.”
Dealing with the high prices of red meat has been part of Messias’ routine since before he even started selling food. A butcher at a butcher’s market, he says he had to move to another branch this year to keep his income because the price charged for meat from the supplier made it difficult to sell at the butcher shop. “The supplier who leaves the meat here (at the meat market) comes in the morning to leave the product, and at the end of the morning returns to get the cost, while we could only sell to the buyer in cash, there was no way to sell by card, because this the same day you have to pay the supplier,” he says. “Then it got really hard, it was really hard. So much so that I have changed my business, at least for now.”
If the high cost of production were only due to the price of red meat, Messias thinks the solution could be even simpler. The problem he pointed out, however, is that virtually all of the resources needed to sell meals are also priced at the highest prices. “Everything is expensive! Even the vegetables we have to have in PF are expensive and we can’t refuse them. We always work with three kinds of raw and boiled salads to see if that makes up for the meat problem, but since vegetables are also expensive, the return is very small in the end.”
In the case of 32-year-old self-employed Danielle da Silva Garcia, the situation is also not much different. Although the price of red meat affects spending, she says she can’t forego the protein in the meals she sells. “Most customers really prefer meat, so they can’t not eat meat, otherwise it won’t be sold. Even though we work a lot with fish, chicken and beef jerky, there can be no shortage of meat,” he says. “We know it’s really expensive, but we’re trying to squeeze it in from one side to the other so we don’t miss it. Some days we sell well and some days we don’t. That’s how we take it.”
The latest balance sheet published by the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socio-Economic Research (Dieese) indicates that in the 1st quarter of this year (January-March 2022), the cumulative increase in the price of a kilogram of beef reached 4.81. % compared to inflation calculated at 3.42% (INPC/IBGE) for this period.