Shortly after I took the position of barbecue editor at Texas Monthly, I had a conversation with my doctor about cholesterol. He gave me a ranked chart of items to avoid to keep my LDL (low-density lipoprotein, a.k.a. the bad cholesterol) levels down. Brisket took the first position, and pork spare ribs were second. For comparison, bacon barely cracked the top ten. I took one look at the chart and asked politely and realistically for the right drugs. I was going to have to eat all the barbecue regardless of how unhealthy it was, and I’d rather not know just how much worse the pulled pork was for me than the smoked turkey. Now, at some Texas barbecue locations, we don’t have that choice.
As of last week (May 7), the FDA requires that any restaurant chain with twenty or more locations post the nutrition information for all of its menu items. That means chains such as Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and Rudy’s Bar-B-Que now must post that information on the menus hanging above their counters. The full requirements from the FDA are more specific as to the information that needs to be included:
…calories must be listed in close proximity and clearly associated with the standard menu item. Businesses must also provide, upon request, the following written nutrition information for standard menu items: total calories; total fat; saturated fat; trans fat; cholesterol; sodium; total carbohydrates; sugars; fiber; and protein.
The two major Texas barbecue chains don’t seem to have bothered with the directive. I stopped at three Dickey’s locations in Dallas as well as the Rudy’s Bar-B-Que in Allen to see their newly unveiled calorie counts next to the menu items, but they weren’t there yet. The original Dickey’s had a few confusing notations showing the wild variation in calories that can be had in a generic barbecue platter. A Dickey’s manager at another location said, “If you’re counting calories, you’re in the wrong place.” At Rudy’s, they directed me to their website for the information. It’s all there. I’d planned ahead and made some notes before I arrived to determine my order.