Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part report on the rising cost of beef. This report focuses on its effect on local businesses. Wednesday's report will examine the issue from an agricultural perspective.

Sonny's Bar-B-Q on Fourth Street has a storied history in Graham, and owner Shane Bivins will be the first to say that since reopening his restaurant for the second time this June, business hasn't met his expectations.

Now, thanks to another recent surge in beef prices, he said he remains uncertain about Sonny's future.

“In two weeks, the beef prices went up 50 cents,” Bivins said. “They went from $2.48 to $2.98 in two week's time. Briskets were costing $30 a piece, and now they're costing anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on how big they are.”

When it comes to taking a financial hit due to rising beef costs, Bivins is not alone, especially in Graham. The cost of beef has been steadily rising in the state of Texas and elsewhere in the country.

This is due to several reasons, one of the largest being the drought that began in 2011, and even though some recent precipitation looks to be a positive step toward recovery in the industry, prices continue to climb.

According to a July 17 report from the USDA, “Recent rains have improved pasture conditions in many parts of the United States, prompting demand for lighter weight feeder cattle and reducing cow slaughter. Cattle and beef prices have continued to set successive record highs due to foreign demand and low cattle inventories.”

And now, many local business owners and managers are saying that the most recent jump in beef cost is putting them in even tougher situations.
Shane Bivins cuts sausage for a customer at his establishment.
Shane Bivins cuts sausage for a customer at his establishment. (Casey Holder)

Jose Gallegos is the manager of Mi Familia in Graham. Gallegos said that because of the rising cost of beef, Mi Familia had to raise its prices, in some cases by $2 a plate. He said that while the price of some beef, such as the skirt meat they use for fajitas, has remained the same since May, the cost of ground beef went up from $2.31 a pound in May to $2.79 in late July.

 “We just had to raise our prices starting July 1,” Gallegos said. “Most stuff went up a dollar. Some went up 50 cents. And some, like our steak, we went up $2 just to keep alive.”

A little north from Mi Familia and across Highway 16 is Joann Sanderson's establishment, Sanderson's Restaurant, a Graham staple for 38 years.

“The cost of our food, our beef and everything else, continues to rise,” Sanderson said. “And we can't go up that much to keep up with the price we pay against the price that people will pay, because they can't afford to match (the speed with which) the cost of our food goes up. It's a catch 22.”

Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.