Local BBQ restaurant owner thriving despite record high price of beef

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by Alice Barr / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on July 1, 2014 at 10:56 PM

PEARLAND, Texas -- Whether it's the smell, the taste, or the tradition, the 4th of July means BBQ, and in Texas, BBQ means beef.

But from area businesses, to grocery stores, "what’s for dinner" is costing more this Independence Day.

“They just started slowly creeping up and up and up,” said Chef Ronnie Killen, Owner of Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland. “We’re probably 30 to 35% across the board higher on all beef items."

It's a heavy burden, especially for a new restaurant like Killen's Barbecue, open just 4 months now.

"It’s really hard to change your menu that quickly,” said Chef Killen. “You don’t want people to get upset because you’re raising the prices."

So they're not. The restaurant is eating the costs themselves, and waiting for a break.

"It’s doing well anyway so I can’t complain," said Killen.

But even at Killen’s, where the line never slows down, they’ve had to make some adjustments, like taking beef ribs off of multiple meat sample plates. That one item grew more expensive than the cost of the whole plate, so they have to sell it on its own now.

The record high prices are mainly because of the drought that won't quit, shrinking the U.S. cattle supply to its lowest numbers in 60 years.

Chef Killen knows about that too. He owns a ranch near San Antonio.

"The grass is dying because we haven't had very much water," said Killen.

Add to Chef Killen's resume his own steakhouse, Killen’s Steakhouse, and he's seeing the crunch from every angle. But he's taking the long view.

He said, "We just look at it, it’s going to come back down, it always does."

Until then, customers we found are willing to step up the cost to cure a savory craving.

"Maybe 12 to 14 dollars, every now and then," customer Millie Golden said of buying one piece of beef.

Fellow diner Nathan Smith added, "If it was my last bite of beef, I’d pay 10 bucks for a single bite."

Meaning there's still some meat left on the bone.

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