Bad News for BBQ

Brisket is getting so expensive people are stealing it from H-E-B stores

Brisket is getting so expensive people are stealing it from H-E-B

Brisket at Pecan Lodge in Dallas
Brisket is on the rise.  Photo by Tadd Myers
James Cordell Avery
Police suspect this man of stealing $2000 worth of meat. Courtesy of APD
Brisket at Pecan Lodge in Dallas
James Cordell Avery

During a meating (get it?) of the minds in December, barbecue experts from across the country converged on the Texas A&M campus to discuss the rising cost of beef. Between an increase in demand and decrease in the consistency of the cuts sold to barbecue purveyors, meat prices — specifically brisket — are expected to increase over the next three to four years. 

 Brisket is so hot that Austin Police recently asked for the public's help in finding a suspected 'serial meat thief.' 

Sadly, these prices will likely be passed off to consumers. According to the Dallas Morning News, because of brisket's rising costs (the wholesale price is currently averaging $3.25 per pound) many restaurateurs have either raised prices or are considering raising them as a way to combat the wholesale increase. 

But it's not just cost that has pitmasters worried — it's the inconsistency in the cuts of beef, too. While some cuts are lean and tough, other are too fatty and need to be trimmed. "We’re trimming a lot more fat, and losing money," Wayne Kammerl, owner of the Brisket House in Houston, told the Dallas Morning News.

So what exactly caused this rise in beef prices? Well, as Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn points out, Arby's certainly isn't helping matters. The fast food chain's brisket sandwich returned to much fanfare in mid-2014, bringing with it a high demand for the cut of meat. According to market analyst Gary Morrison at Urner Barry, "[Arby's has] been stepping into the market to procure product hampering an already tight market. Prices have pushed to new highs on almost a daily basis."

Couple this demand with a decrease in cattle, and we've got ourselves a pricier piece of barbecue. This commodity is so hot that Austin police recently asked for the public's help in finding a suspected "serial meat thief." James Cordell Avery is suspected of stealing more than $2,000 worth of beef — mostly brisket— from area H-E-B stores. Police believe he is working with two accomplices to pull off the heists, which entail placing the meat into the shopping cart, placing a weekly ad sheet on top of the meat and wheeling it right out of the store. 

"After the initial shock of hearing someone’s stealing briskets from H-E-B, it kind of makes sense," Michael Black, owner and manager at Terry Black’s Barbecue, told KXAN. "The price of beef is on the rise, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down."