CHICAGO - It may be hard to believe, but there is such a thing as too much meat.
A Chicago meat packer is sitting on tens of thousands of dollars' worth of top shelf product, after the Omicron surge took a big bite out of the restaurant business during the holidays.
Since 1956 the Northwest Meat Company in Fulton Market has been supplying some of the choicest cuts of meat to Chicago’s top steak houses and restaurants.
But third generation owner Andrew Neva is now dealing with a carnivore crisis; the meat’s piling up with nowhere to go.
"I’ll never forget December 15, that’s when it changed," Neva said. "We were doing well, doing well, doing well. Omicron crashed the party."
Neva had already ordered and received hundreds of pounds of top quality meat for holiday parties and special year-end dinners.
Now, much of it is still sitting at the plant in cold storage.
"You’re looking at prime tenderloins, prime tenderloin strip and that whole pallet up there," said Neva, pointing to a box on a shelf.
"That pallet right there is probably worth ten grand just in itself."
They’re sitting on total of $30,000 in unused premium meat, which was purchased in October and paid for in November.
"I bought it specifically to make sure the demand was there," said Neva. "My customers wouldn’t be shorted. But now I’m basically sitting on dead money."
Michelle Durpetti is a managing partner of the legendary Gene and Giorgetti Steakhouse in River North, which buys its meat from Northwest.
She says Omicron destroyed their holiday party business, with cancellations on some nights approaching 40%.
"People calling and saying I can’t make my party," said Durpetti. "‘My aunt is positive, or I’m positive myself.’ A lot of reschedules and cancellations that dropped the overall numbers. Impacting sales and then impacting suppliers."
For now, Neva said the meat can be kept fresh for the next big holiday.
"I’m hoping that Valentine’s Day comes, and we have some demand."
Until then, Neva said he has some food for thought to chew on.
"There’s nothing you can do about it. I told people all the time. The northwest meat company didn’t cause the pandemic. We are just along for the ride."