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Meat prices soar for barbecue restaurants in Kansas City

Some types of meat cost 50% more right now
Arthur Bryant's ribs
Arthur Bryant's KCMO
Arthur Bryant's meat locker
Plowboys BBQ nachos
Arthur Bryant's Kansas City
Posted at 9:21 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 00:00:35-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Kansas City is known for its barbecue, but restaurants are starting to see an alarming trend as the price for meat rises.

"Double on brisket, easily double on ribs," Jerry Rauschelbach, who owns of Arthur Bryant's Barbecue, said.

The beefed-up meat prices are taking a bigger bite out of restaurants' budgets during a year when the pandemic already has strained many establishments.

Rauschelbach said the price for a pound of brisket, which typically costs $2.50 to $3, has climbed to $5 or more.

"I think most people would take brisket off the market, but you can't do that in a BBQ restaurant," Rauschelbach said.

He said there are several reasons for the rising prices — including a supply chain that is having a hard time keeping up with demand, labor shortages as some suppliers lack employees, and a lack of drivers to transport the meat to the restaurants.

Rauschelbach said he's good for another few months with his supply, but he doesn't want to make the difficult choice about cutting menu items or raising prices.

"We're a must-stop (barbecue restaurant) and they want the full experience," he said. "They don't want the experience of 'Oh, you don't have brisket' or 'It's how much?' That's not part of the experience. They want a big sandwich at a decent price."

It's not just beef. Prices have spiked on some chicken parts for Plowboys Barbecue in Blue Springs.

"We use chicken thigh for our pulled chicken and we can't hardly get those," Plowboys Founder Todd Johns said. "They've jumped up almost a 100% markup, and we're running into a lot shortages."

The good news for customers is that many restaurants 41 Action News reached out to don't plan to raise menu prices yet.

"We don't have to pass all of this on to the customer at this point," Johns said. "We'll just make some choices as a business to get ourselves through it."

But the sooner the market corrects and the prices drop, the better.

"We've survived a pandemic; we'll survive this," Johns said.

Rauschelbach added, "We'll always have brisket here, no matter the price."

The bigger issue many restaurants face right now is finding enough staff to serve the growing number of customers as vaccinations and relaxed COVID-19 health orders bring additional dine-in traffic.