The End of Cheap Beef : TMBBQ

Davey Griffin demonstrating brisket styles

Dr. Davey Griffin demonstrating differences in styles of brisket found today (photo courtesy of Daniel Vaughn)


That beef is more expensive than it was a year ago is no surprise, and this trend doesn’t look to be easing up anytime soon. As David Anderson, a Texas A&M professor of ag economics, told a room full of barbecue joint owners last month at the university’s first-ever Barbecue Town Hall, retailers should plan on two or three years of elevated pricing.

Of the many slides he presented that illustrated the corn, pork, and beef markets, the one on average wholesale prices of beef showed that numbers steady since mid-July—around $3.00 per pound—up significantly from 2013’s price of $2.20. Brisket is even worse. This past week the price for whole, choice briskets was $3.45 per pound, up from $2.14 a year earlier. On Friday, Urner Barry, a research company that tracks commodity markets, provided some bad news about the immediate future for pitmasters. Brisket prices will continue to rise to record levels.

Stephen Joseph, the owner and pitmaster of Riverport BBQ in Jefferson, Texas, said he’s already seeing the difference.  His beef supplier warned him to expect a rise of $0.25 per pound next week so he added a bit more to his order this week trying to stave off the financial affects from his most popular menu item. At the Town Hall, I asked the crowd what other proteins they’ve tried to highlight other than brisket. Russell Roegels of Rogels Barbecue Co. in Houston said “any special we have is anything but beef.” Others pointed to chicken or even pork since prices have gone down recently. Smoked turkey breast is another popular option. It’s primarily sold frozen and has only one predictable seasonal price spike per year.

There’s also not much loss in a lean smoked turkey breast, but let’s face—Texas is a beef state. “We’re all looking for new proteins to serve,” says Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue. “I don’t think we ever want to get out of the beef business, because it’s essential to who we are.”

For the complete story: The End of Cheap Beef : TMBBQ.

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