Pork prices have made such a quick jump in recent months that Tennessee barbeque joints are raising prices by 15 percent or more. One restaurant owner calls it “basically Armageddon.”
“The trend on pork is the scariest thing we’ve ever seen,” says Barry Pelts, whose family owns Memphis-based Corky’s BBQ.
Hog prices are up nearly 50 percent from the same period in 2013. And analysts say consumers still haven’t felt just how high that will push prices at grocery stores and restaurants.
Ribs are the specialty at Corky’s, and Pelts says he can hardly make any money selling a rack, even after raising prices 10 days ago.
“But I will tell you right now that everybody that walks into that restaurant that orders a barbecue chicken dinner, I’m tickled to death,” he says.
Nashville-based Whitt’s Barbecue plans to raise prices on pulled pork by $1.50 per pound starting next week, according to a store manager.
The big factor has been a virus that’s wiping out piglets by the millions, including in Tennessee. Some 6,000 farms are affected. Eleven of them are in Tennessee.
But meat industry analyst Len Steiner says hog farmers who’ve avoided an outbreak are benefiting from the scarcity. Tennessee farmers sold 150,000 hogs in 2013, down from 170,000 in both 2012 and 2011.
“The guys that are buying grain and selling pigs, they’re doing extremely well this year,” Steiner says.