CAMERON — The worst nationwide cattle shortage since the early 1950s is driving cattle prices higher on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Those prices also are reflected at the meat market and food establishments such as barbecue restaurants, but some of those businesses are trying to keep their products affordable by reducing profits rather than increasing prices.
The increase in cattle prices has an impact on profitability “and that’s about it,” said Sam Berry, owner of Circle S Barbecue, 2201 N. Travis Ave., in Cameron. “Profits are not what they should be. It’s one of those things we have to sit through and see what’s going to happen.”
Berry has not had to increase his prices, but with customers limited on what they can spend, “I’m going to try and keep my prices as low as possible. People are going to eat barbecue if they want to. I think the increases are going to affect the supermarkets more than it’s going to affect us.
“If they keep going high, I will have to do something. Brisket has gone up in the past three weeks, probably 20 cents a pound.”
The cost of brisket is $2.49 to $2.50 a pound. At this time last year, it was $1.79.
He sells a pound of brisket for $9.95.
“You do what you can and you don’t want to cut back on anything because the customers deserve what they have been getting,” Berry said.
When it comes to having Circle S cater an event, Berry said the price of beef is a little bit higher than chicken or pork. “I haven’t raised my prices yet. I try to give everybody what I can at a fair price. We will go with quality and quantity. You just have to adjust, but I haven’t adjusted here in 1½ years. This isn’t my only source of income.”
Even with the price hikes, business has been steady at Clem Mikeska’s Barbecue, next to the Cefco convenience store off U.S. Highway 190/Texas 36 southeast of Cameron.
Truck driver traffic at Cefco represents 50 percent of the business for Mikeska’s and that is enhanced by the large number of travelers passing through Cameron on busy Texas 36.
The highest priced cut of meat is brisket, which sells for $13.95 a pound, an increase of $2 a pound over last year.
Sausage is the best selling meat followed by brisket, chicken and ribs, store manager Pam Campbell said.
Chopped brisket sandwiches outsell the sliced brisket sandwich, which has gone up 25 cents.
Meats are smoked at the Temple location, while side dishes are prepared on-site.
Business has increased with the weather improving, Campbell said.
Harley Doggett, who has operated Doggett’s Barbecue and Hamburgers since 1993 in Rogers, shares barbecuing duties with Jim Owens.
The price of barbecue has gone sky high the past year, Doggett said. “From the last time I bought beef it went up 40 cents a pound.”
Doggett increased prices some, but “you can’t get too high. People won’t trade with you.”
He charges $8 a pound for brisket. Other places can get $10 to $12 a pound. “They have more upkeep than I do.”
He is selling less brisket now, but more hamburgers than in the past along with ribs and sausage.
Since he started the business in 1993, prices have steadily increased, including hamburgers, now priced at $3.75, and cheeseburgers, which are $4.
The shortage of cattle this year has caused increases, although he tried to hold prices steady.
“If prices get too high, people just back off,” he said. “One thing goes up and then the next thing goes up. That’s the way everything is.”