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Spike in meat prices worries local barbecue restaurants

Posted at 6:43 PM, May 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-03 19:52:55-04

WACO, Texas — Local Waco barbecue joints are open for business, but in the midst of the pandemic, they are facing new challenges.

Across the country, meat processing plants are operating at limited capacity because of the virus, meaning there is less meat available on the market.

"That state is ever-fluctuating right now with plants closing and plants re-opening," Honky Tonk Kid BBQ owner David Gorham said.

According to reports from the USDA, meat production has decreased by nearly 30 percent.

Combined with the amount of panic-buying in grocery stores, that reduction has led to an increase in the price of brisket and other cuts of meat.

Restaurants are also seeing a shortage in different meats.

"We, so far, haven't seen too much of a shortfall," Gorham said. "I'll say two weeks in a row, we had trouble getting our beef sausage, which is from a local Texas farm. We hear that our pork ribs might take a hit coming up."

Earlier this week, HEB announced it is limiting the amount of meat people can buy in their stores.

"It can make me a little bit nervous, but as long as I can control food cost and labor cost overall, we can stay ahead of the game. We'll just have to take it one day at a time," Gorham said.

Local barbecue restaurants are now changing their focus to other cuts of meat, creating new items for their menus. Honky Tonk Kid BBQ is now offering its family packs full-time. Other restaurants have discussed changing their focus to chicken.

The meat industry received help earlier this week when President Trump signed an executive order requiring meat processing plants to remain open, despite safety concerns.

According to local restaurant owners, that order has helped limit the shortage and keep prices steady.

As Texas moves into Phase One of its reopening plan, these restaurants hope to continue bringing employees back to work.

"We'd like to get back to full-time hours if possible," Gorham said.

Experts say the United States will not run out of meat in the near or distant future, but prices could continue to rise.

They encourage people to only buy what they need.