Meat shortages lead to increased costs for distributors and restaurants in Harrison, Arkansas

Published: May. 28, 2020 at 5:10 PM CDT
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If you ordered a beef brisket at T's BBQ in Harrison early last week, it cost you $13.

But today, it's $16.49: an increase Tony Valentine, the owner of T's BBQ, hates to charge.

"So I'm kind of trying to split that cost a bit where I'm making the minimum I can to survive," Valentine said.

About two weeks ago, Valentine saw the price he normally pays for brisket in bulk more than double to $2,200.

"We're already in a difficult time financially, and then prices go up makes it even worse," Valentine said.

The increase isn't just out of his hands, but suppliers' too.

"Ribeyes, briskets, things that the restaurants bring in and start from scratch," said Adam Curtis, the director of procurement at Pippin Wholesale Company.

Pippin in Harrison provides food and products to T's, as well as meat to other restaurants in the area. Curtis points to problems up the food chain: meat processing plants closed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

"And whenever you have a week's gap, and they're doing 30,000 hogs a day, 10,000 cows a day, those things really start to limit the supply chains," Curtis said.

He said the company has been working with other smaller manufacturers in the meantime, since their typical ones may be closed.

"And we're just working real hard in here to reach out and find new sources for these products, things that we've never done before, and just try to keep our business going so we can keep their businesses going," Curtis said.

Business for Valentine has been pretty good since reopening. Despite some pushback from customers, most understand the higher prices. Those are figures Valentine hopes don't need to go any higher.

"I'll always pay the price it takes to get the high-quality products we buy," Valentine said.

Food service providers say it's unclear what the future will be like, but say restaurants may need to make more adjustments to their menus if this continues.

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