This January, the Houston Press ran a prophetic story about last summer's drought and its coming effects on beef prices. Katherine Shilcutt's story, like our own Brantley Hargrove's story did a few months before, described Texas ranchers who sold off their cattle when the costs associated with raising them went through the roof.
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Yesterday the Washington Post had a story on some of the first measurable effects of the reduced herds: Cattle prices have doubled.
The stories note that there are many variables that affect the cost of a steak you buy at a grocery store. The cost of raising the pricey bovines, fattening them up, slaughtering, processing, packaging and shipping them are all variables that could drive the price of meat further up, or even back down. But it's hard not to wonder what would happen if that same increase carried the whole way through the supply chain. Especially in town that loves steak.
Dallas has certainly proven its willingness to buy expensive cuts in excess. Steak houses charging sometimes more than $50 a single porterhouse have enjoyed high margins and steady revenue as customers flock to the perceived luxury of these meat dens. Fifty dollars is a lot of money to spend on a plate, but for many it's a justifiable splurge. (For others it's a drop in the bucket.) But what would happen if the cost of that steak was $100?
The bucket-droppers will likely dine on steak no matter how high costs rise, but diners who view a steak house dinner as a special occasion would certainly rethink their celebration. It makes you wonder if the folks who decided to convert Nana, the beloved Italian restaurant in the Hilton Anotale, into a steak house is watching beef prices carefully.