Restaurants start to see effects of meat shortage during COVID-19 pandemic

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DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) — At Ronnies “Q” Barbecue, they’re grateful to have a drive-thru during this pandemic, but there’s one popular item not on the menu as of Thursday— beef brisket.

“I have to make a profit,” Owner Ronnie Primm told News 2, “Before I overcharge my customers, I just discontinue that item until it starts going back down.”

Primm buys meat from three distributors, right now he says beef prices are up a dollar per pound.

“What I try to do is whoever the cheapest, that’s who I buy from, right now when it comes to beef, everybody’s running $3.55 a pound, $3.80 a pound on beef, and that’s just too much,” he explained.

Several meat processing plants across the country have shut down or cut operations after outbreaks of COVID-19 significantly slowed production lines.

Experts say it’s not so much a meat shortage but an upset in the supply chain.

According to wholesale price tracker BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com— the price of some ground beef has tripled in the last two months.

“It’s a real big increase,” Primm said, “For example, if I buy that beef at $3.89 and all my beef samples I get I believe at $8.75, I would have to move my price up just on a sandwich at least $10 dollars and people just not gonna buy that.”

Last week, fast-food chain Wendy’s announced they were taking triple and double-stack hamburgers off menus in some restaurants.

Primm says even the price of pork has doubled.

“But it hasn’t went so far that I can’t handle it,” he said, “I was told by one of the vendors, next week price on pork is gonna be $2.02 a pound.”

For most, buying in bulk to cut costs is what’s keeping the grill going.

“On our menu, we have pork, chicken, ribs… right now we stand up pretty good,” Primm said, “As long as I give people good customer service and give them our money’s worth, I think we’ll be okay.”

It’s not just restaurants having a hard time getting meat, we’re also seeing it in our local grocery stores. Kroger told News 2 in a statement Thursday in part: “At this time, we’ve added temporary purchase limits to beef, poultry, pork, and grinds to ensure more customers continue to have access to these products.”

The company also said it’s working to make sure rising meat costs do not get passed on to the customer.

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