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Texas politicians and restaurant owners have beef over barbecue scales

It's a meaty issue that seems to be getting tougher for mom and pop barbecue joints across the state.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller isn't playing games in making sure the food that the state’s barbecue joints serve to customers are being weighed and measured correctly. But restaurant owners feel the scales of justice are not on their side.

Even though the state legislature passed a bill exempting barbecue places from being regulated using state-inspected food-weighing scales, the disagreement now is how Commissioner Miller is interpreting and enforcing that law.

Gilbert Garcia has been serving-up food at his own place, Southside BarBQue, for 10 years.

“I love cooking, that's it," he said. "I slowly cook my briskets over 18 hours in a real barbecue pit.”

But what leaves Garcia with a bad taste in his mouth is the number of new rules he says he has to follow.

"You are being pressured, like, from every which way, and trying to keep up with the new franchise going around here," he said.

The legislature passed a bill last year exempting scales used to weigh food for "immediate consumption" from regulation.

Commissioner Miller opposed the law. He's also the one who interprets the law, and owners have beef with how he is enforcing it.

Texas Department of Agriculture Communications Director Mark Loeffler says that Commissioner Miller wants it to be an even playing field for everyone.

"Our definition of the restaurant premises on consumption of the food on premises," he said. "I think the legislators failed to address that definition, and so as the regulators, we did address that definition."

Inspectors with the ag department are looking for two things:

1) The scale has to be visible to the public.

2) The scale has to work accurately.

"I like the idea, it is great," Garcia said. "But paying $35 every year and having to keep up with it, because if you forget it or you don't have it, that's a $200 to $1,000 fine."

Recently, the state attorney general gave his opinion, saying he doesn't agree with Miller's interpretation of the law.

He says it doesn't mandate when or where the customer will the eat the food. Loeffler does expect this issue to brought up in the next legislative session.