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State of Ham Prices: Wholesale Restaurant Food Cost Trends

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Fluctuations in the price of ham may not have an impact on many restaurants, but it’s likely a more common ingredient than you think. 

Restaurant ham prices may be top of mind for deli owners and operators across the country. Same with pizzerias that sell a ton of Hawaiian pizzas. Cafes and breakfast spots — especially in the south — may also have an eye on ham prices.

Regardless of your restaurant type or ham usages, monitoring the restaurant supply chain can help operators forecast price fluctuations, plan their ingredient costs, and set strategic menu prices.

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Toast is the point of sale system built for restaurants.

We're able to calculate the average monthly prices that eating establishments pay for ham by using proprietary data from xtraCHEF by Toast, our invoice automation and recipe costing tool.

The average national price that restaurants paid for a pound of ham is $4.51 in August.

Here's a breakdown of historical data on wholesale restaurant ham prices in the last year:

Restaurant ham prices have been steady over the past year — fluctuating no more than 5% month-over-month  in either direction.

Here's a breakdown of recent month-over-month fluctuations in the price of ham for restaurants:

Commodities experts weigh in on ham prices

We were able to speak with some experts in the food commodities space to understand their analysis on ham price trends and the impact on restaurants. 

Question

How are ham prices influenced by overall pork production, and how should restaurant owners expect wholesale ham prices to trend into 2024?

Overall U.S. pork production has a direct impact on the supply of hams available, which is a key driver of pricing. Other key price drivers of ham include export demand from Mexico, domestic holiday demand and labor costs for boneless ham products. Negative profitability for hog producers this Spring resulted in sow liquidation. The liquidation impacts could tighten ham supplies into early 2024. Demand is a mixed picture with the exchange rate still favoring strong export demand from Mexico. Tighter economic conditions and cheaper turkey prices may weigh on domestic demand this holiday season. The impact of California’s Proposition 12 is also a wild card for pricing, although impacts on ham are expected to be lower since many ham products are cooked. Cooked pork products are exempted from Proposition 12 regulations.

Courtney Schmidt
Courtney Schmidt
Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute

Boneless, bone-in, canned, and other types of ham

Ham is a versatile protein that offers a range of flavors and textures, making it a staple in many restaurant menus. Here are some common types of ham and their uses for restaurants:

  1. Boneless ham: This type of ham is deboned and typically comes in a uniform shape, making it easy to slice for sandwiches, salads, and appetizer platters.
  2. Bone-in ham: Bone-in hams retain the bone, which adds flavor during cooking. They are often roasted or smoked and served as centerpieces for festive occasions or carved to order in upscale dining establishments.
  3. Canned ham: Canned ham is pre-cooked and conveniently packaged, making it suitable for deli-style sandwiches, breakfast spreads, or as an ingredient in casseroles and quiches.
  4. Ham steak: Ham steaks are thick slices cut from a boneless ham. They are pan-fried, grilled, or broiled and served as a standalone entree, added to breakfast dishes, or used as a topping for salads and pizzas.

Understanding the characteristics and uses of different types of ham can help restaurant owners and operators create a diverse range of dishes that feature this popular meat. Experimenting with various cuts and preparations can add depth of flavor and variety to your menu offerings.

Popular sandwiches and other dishes that use ham

Ham is a key ingredient in many beloved sandwiches and dishes across different cuisines. Here are some popular options that incorporate ham:

  1. Ham and cheese sandwich: A classic combination that transcends cultures, the ham and cheese sandwich can feature various cheeses and be served cold or grilled.
  2. Croque Monsieur/Madame: A French-style grilled ham and cheese sandwich, traditionally topped with a béchamel sauce and sometimes a fried egg for the Madame version.
  3. Ham and egg breakfast burrito: A hearty breakfast option that combines scrambled eggs, diced ham, cheese, and other fillings wrapped in a tortilla.
  4. Ham and pineapple pizza: A Hawaiian-style pizza that pairs the savory taste of ham with the sweetness of pineapple for a delightful flavor contrast.

These dishes cater to a wide range of tastes and can be easily customized to suit different dietary preferences or cultural influences. By incorporating ham into your menu items, you can offer familiar and comforting choices that appeal to a broad customer base.

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Global ham market and how it can influence American ham prices

Ham prices can be influenced by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Meat prices: Fluctuations in the overall meat market, including pork prices, can impact the cost of ham. Changes in supply and demand for pork can influence ham prices accordingly.
  2. Inventories: The level of ham inventories held by producers and suppliers can affect pricing. Higher inventories may lead to price adjustments to manage supply and demand dynamics.
  3. Retail prices: Consumer demand and retail pricing strategies can also influence ham prices. Retailers often adjust prices based on factors like seasonal demand, promotions, and overall market conditions.
  4. Pork bellies: Pork bellies are a primary component used to produce ham and can impact prices. Fluctuations in pork belly prices can have a downstream effect on ham pricing.

Being aware of these influences in the ham market and larger pork market can help restaurant owners and operators make informed decisions when purchasing and pricing their menu items. Regular monitoring of meat production trends and building relationships with trusted suppliers can assist in managing costs while providing high-quality ham options to customers.

What makes ham and turkey sandwiches so delicious

Ham and turkey sandwiches are consistently popular choices among customers due to several factors:

  1. Flavor: Both ham and turkey offer unique and savory flavors that complement a variety of ingredients. The salty, smoky flavor of ham and the mild, lean taste of turkey pair well with other toppings and condiments.
  2. Texture: Ham and turkey provide different textures which add depth to sandwiches. The slightly chewy and tender consistency of ham contrasts with the lean and juicy texture of turkey.
  3. Versatility: Ham and turkey sandwiches can be customized with a wide range of toppings, cheeses, and spreads to suit individual preferences. This versatility allows for creative combinations and a personalized dining experience.
  4. Balance: The combination of ham and turkey in a sandwich provides a balanced flavor profile, with ham adding richness and turkey adding a lighter element. This balance appeals to those seeking a satisfying yet not overly heavy meal.

By incorporating these factors into your sandwich offerings, you can ensure that ham and turkey sandwiches remain popular choices on your menu. Experimenting with different breads, fillings, and condiments can further enhance the overall taste and appeal of these classic sandwiches.

Pork bellies, pork loin, pork chops, pork steaks, and other cuts

Apart from ham, the pork industry offers various cuts that can be featured on restaurant menus. Here are some commonly used fresh pork cuts and their characteristics:

  1. Pork bellies: The primary cut used for bacon production. These fatty, flavorful strips are often used as a breakfast staple or as an ingredient in a range of dishes.
  2. Pork loin: A lean and tender cut that is versatile and can be roasted, sliced into chops, or used for stuffing. It is known for its mild flavor and tenderness.
  3. Pork chops: These are slices cut from the pork loin or pork rib. They can be bone-in or boneless, and can be grilled, pan-fried, or baked to provide a juicy and flavorful main course option.
  4. Pork steaks: Cut from the shoulder or blade region, pork steaks are flavorful and can be marinated, grilled, or braised for a tender and juicy result.

These cuts offer various flavor profiles and can be prepared using different cooking methods to suit different culinary styles. By incorporating a selection of pork cuts into your menu, you can showcase the versatility of pork and attract customers looking for diverse dining options.

Pork exports and the global ham trade

The global ham market is a significant component of the international meat industry. Countries around the world produce and consume large quantities of ham, and global trade in the product is growing steadily.

The top producers of ham in the world are European countries, especially Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. These countries have a long tradition of ham production, and their products are renowned for their quality and flavor. Other major producers include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and China.

In terms of ham exports, Spain is the largest exporter globally, followed by Italy and Germany. These countries account for a significant portion of the global trade in ham products. Other countries such as Denmark and the United States are also major exporters of ham products.

The top importers of ham in the world are Japan, the United States, and Germany. These countries import large amounts of ham products from various countries, including Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Other countries such as China, South Korea, and Mexico are also major importers of ham products.

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Start tracking ham prices today

High prices of ham can send your profits wee wee wee all the way home. That’s why restaurateurs should consider having a strong back-of-house cost tracking foundation that’s built on invoice automation.

Invoices are the single source of truth for restaurant costs — pinpointing prices and fluctuations for individual ingredients as well as paper goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and more.

With accurate and up-to-date ingredient prices from invoices, operators can start calculating plate costs. Plate costing is a detailed exercise that zooms into the recipes and/or individual ingredients that make up a dish — requiring detailed recipe costs and portion costs for ingredients.

Costing exercises can help show how each component is contributing to the overall profitability of a dish or drink. And recipe costing software can help make it easier to calculate and achieve an ideal balance between portions and profits.




Methodology

Toast analyzed monthly invoice items for ham from restaurants using xtraCHEF by Toast. Items are weighted by the frequency of orders, not quantity. A standard unit of measure is determined so that an average price can be calculated across all invoice inclusions of the ingredient.

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