Rising meat prices could mean more expensive on July 4

The way many Texans celebrate Independence Day may be changing. Whether this change is minor or major will depend on the importance of the barbecue’s role in the celebration.

With beef prices rising due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on meat packing operations, it can mean your celebration is more expensive or includes less brisket.

Joe Riscky, partner of the brand new butcher shop The Meat Board in the Lincoln Village mall, said the store has seen a significant increase in the cost of purchasing its inventory. The store has tried to eat as much as possible from the rising prices, but this increase has always been passed on to customers.

It could affect the way people celebrate Independence Day, and it could impact some businesses in North Texas.

Risky said the store, which opened just before the pandemic, already has a loyal following. Although price increases may have reduced the amount or frequency of meat purchases, customers are still willing to pay the higher prices.

“The demand is still there,” Risky said. “Mainly on red meat and on barbecue options like brisket, ribs and steaks.”

Trying to break even

Roy Pope Grocery in Fort Worth said the price of beef had reached a high level, forcing the store to cut its profit margins to the extreme.

“Even if prices go up for our customers, we’re just trying to break even,” said owner Chris Reale.

Reale said most customers will see a cost increase of about 30% from the same time last year, and most craft barbecues and mom and pop butchers and grocers feel affected.

He said that for that brisket so common in the 4th of July celebrations, he sells a pound of cooked meat for $ 25 while he pays $ 20 for that same pound, when he combines the cost of the meat, labor and wood to smoke it.

“We’re very open and talking about it, explaining to customers why the prices have gone up,” Reale said.

And it appears to be a price that many customers are willing to pay.

Reale started cooking a barbecue at the Roy Pope grocery store last Saturday, smoking seven breasts. He didn’t make any big announcements about it and said he thought those seven would last him all dinner. They did not do it.

The grocery store started selling the brisket at 11 am and Reale said it was sold out by 12:30 pm Heading into July 4th, he’s cooking a lot more.

He said the grocery store will also have specials on Independence Day on popsicles, burgers, hamburger buns, s’mores and, of course, brisket and ribs.

Effect on barbecue restaurants

But Roy Pope Grocery is safer than some.

For many, the stakes increase with the price of steaks.

Smokey’s Barbecue, a Fort Worth staple since the 1960s, closed this week. Owner Paul Calhoun said that while aspects such as declining customer base during the pandemic contributed, the price of beef was also a major factor.

“You can’t always pass it [price hikes] on the client and if you can’t find a way to absorb it, then we just have to shut down, ”Calhoun said.

Smokey’s, which opened in the early 1960s, closed and reopened in the 1980s, Calhoun said. He might be able to bring back the Fort Worth barbecue icon at some point, but for now, he’ll have to focus on a smaller scale with catering and pop-ups due to the cost of meat.

Brandon Hurtado, owner of Hurtado Barbecue in Arlington, said his restaurant had to raise prices but expects them to drop after July 4.

“We increased the prices three months ago when beef prices started to really go up, but we won’t increase them again for the foreseeable future,” Hurtado said.

Since many menu items are billed to customers based on market price, he said the ticket for a meal in Hurtado is expected to drop a bit after the holidays.

His restaurant, a Tex-Mex version of the barbecue, opened just before COVID closures hit Texas. He said the storm had been difficult to weather, but they would be okay with it.

Hurtado will have specials on July 4, such as wholesale meals and special tomahawk rib eye steaks made with certified Angus beef.

And although prices are on the rise, he said he believes customers are more willing to pay those higher bills than they were before COVID, especially for vacations. Like everyone who spoke to the Star-Telegram, he said he was trying to reduce the impact of the beef price increase on customers.

And he doesn’t think those prices will change too much how families celebrate July 4th.

People have been living apart from their friends and family for so long and they are willing to pay the increase in the price of barbecue, he said. If that means they’re eating it with their loved ones and celebrating American independence, it’s worth it.

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James Hartley is a news reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is passionate about true stories, movies, baseball and great hot tea. You can connect with James on Twitter @ByJamesHartley or Instagram @JamesTakesPhotos. | Want reporters like James to help you stay informed about your community? You can help Star-Telegram continue to deliver great local, business, political, sports and cultural news by purchasing a digital or print subscription today.

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