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Rising meat prices leave Texas barbecue joints feeling the heat

COVID-19 has already cut into restaurants' profits. Now, it’s stacking up their costs through rising meat prices

FORT WORTH, Texas — The COVID-19 outbreak isn’t just cutting into restaurant profits, it's also stacking up costs. Thanks to the meat industry's drop in supply and rising prices, barbecue restaurants are being hit harder than most.

“Right now, we just can’t get the meat," said Chris Magallanes, co-owner of Panther City BBQ in Fort Worth. "What we can get that’s available is really skyrocketing in price right now." 

Magallanes said the meat his customers crave rose $1.50 the week restaurants began reopening in Texas, as COVID-19 restrictions started to lift.

“We’ve actually doubled wholesale beef prices in the course of the last two months,” said David Anderson, professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University. “Barbecue restaurants are struggling because of tremendously tight supplies of brisket, sharply rising prices."

According to the CDC, at least 15 meat processing facilities in 19 states reported more than 4,900 COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths. In some of those plants, production slowed. In others, it stopped altogether.

RELATED: Why North Texas stores are limiting how much meat you can buy

“With all the shutdown in production right now for all the slaughterhouses and the packaging companies, it’s created a kink in the pipeline,” Magallanes said.

The hit comes as Panther City BBQ welcomed customers back to its dining rooms for the first time in weeks. They are still only allowed to seat tables at 25% capacity, which means a fraction of the revenue potential, as the cost of meat continues to rise.

“We’re a brisket state and when you can’t get brisket, it creates a huge problem for barbecue restaurants,” Magallanes said. "I just want to get back to normal so we can fill this place up again."

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