The New York Times was the bearer of bad news for NYC sandwich fans today, reporting on how dire the brisket pricing situation has become over the past couple years. This humble cut of beef is where both your beloved pastrami and the corned beef you enjoyed for St. Paddy’s Day come from.

How serious is the Grey Lady about the current state of pastrami? Very. “Pastrami is in crisis,” writes Jim Dwyer.

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Photo: Flickr/Jeremy Keith

The reason he’s sounding the alarm is simple: Since 2013, prices for pastrami have been rising at such an astronomical rate that traditional pastrami-slingers aren’t sure customers will pay for them. The Yankee Tavern in the Bronx posted a note that said, “Due to the increased price of pastrami, we at the Yankee Tavern apologize for the increase in prices for the pastrami items.”

Joe Bastone, who owns the Yankee Tavern, elaborated:

I contemplated taking it off the menus. I came very close to doing it. I decided to try passing it on.”

Liebman’s Kosher Delicatessen manager Art Rabin—also in the Bronx—was even more blunt:

“We’re not in Manhattan—there’s a ceiling to what people will pay. In Manhattan, people expect to get whacked for a sandwich.”

katz's deli pastrami cutting

Dwyer spoke to Gary Morrison, who tracks beef prices for food publisher Urner Barry. In 2014, brisket prices rose a whopping 47 percent from 2013. Prices in 2015 are already up 14 percent over 2014. That 14 percent might seem small, until you do the math and realize that’s 14 percent of what would have been 147 percent of 2013’s numbers. Ouch.

The problem isn’t beef suppliers getting greedy; it’s drought. Morrison told the NYT, “Drought has put cattle inventory at its lowest level in 60 years.”

Since pastrami is such a point of pride for everyone who serves it, the question of cutting corners even a little bit is impossible. Bastone was emphatic on this point, choosing to charge $12.95 for a sandwich (up from $9.95) to keep the quality.

“I could keep buying a lower quality for $5, but I won’t do that.”

So unless brisket prices come back down and sandwich shops decide to pass along their savings, it’s either pony up $13 for your pastrami fix, or maybe try those Peppered Tofurky Deli Slices, which the company claims are “a zesty, pastrami-type slice.”

If you’re looking for us, we’ll be right behind you in the pastrami rationing line.

[via the New York Times]