The wholesale cost of brisket has been increasing, sometimes dramatically, since 2013. Now, it seems to be tumbling from its peak. Back in mid-January the wholesale price for whole briskets (IMPS 120) was $3.59/lb and this week it has dropped to $2.74/lb. That’s the lowest price for brisket in over a year.
It’ll take some time for retail prices to reflect the drop, but one food supplier in Texas has seen them come down quite a bit since their company’s peak in early February:
$3.09/lb – Select (down from $3.80)
$3.20/lb – Choice (down from $3.95)
$3.45/lb – CAB (down from $4.11)
$3.87/lb – Prime (down from $5.05)
I wrote about “The End of Cheap Beef“ in January. Brisket might be down since then, but the price for beef overall still hasn’t decreased significantly this year. An average pound of Choice beef is still hovering near its peak at $2.42/lb, so why is brisket getting cheaper?
Gary Morrison, a beef market reporter for Urner Barry, noted two factors in an email conversation. “We have not seen the burst in interest for barbecue heading into the demand period that we saw last year.” Meaning there haven’t been the big buy-ups of briskets as we saw in the first quarter of 2014 from big restaurant chains like Arby’s. Morrison also notes that “there are unconfirmed rumors a major QSR [quick serve restaurant] has lessened buying as promotions come near an end. As with the rise up, factual or not these impact behavior.” Maybe Arby’s won’t be so bullish on brisket this year, and that’s a win for independent barbecue joints everywhere.