Photo of Killen's Barbecue in Houston.

Snake River Gold brisket at Killen's Barbecue in Houston, which goes for $30 a pound.

Seeking to improve quality, barbecue maestro Ronnie Killen recently changed brisket suppliers and is now paying so much for raw brisket that he doesn’t make any money on the final, smoked product.

“If it means selling brisket for no profit, then that's what it means,” Killen said on the Houston Chronicle’s BBQ State of Mind podcast Wednesday. "I don't care."

Killen operates the popular Killen’s Barbecue in suburban Houston. He said on the podcast that he now pays $9.35 a pound for brisket supplied by Snake River Farms. More typical wholesale prices, he said, are $3.50 to $3.75 a pound.

Killen's BBQ's Ronnie Killen

His Pearland joint charges $22 a pound for the new brisket, but after pre-cook trimming and normal weight shrinkage in the pit, that leaves no margin, therefore selling brisket for no profit.

In a Facebook message to the Posse, Killen confirmed the podcast figures and that he was only breaking even on brisket. He said he pays even more — $13.50 a pound — for the Snake River Gold brisket that he sometimes serves. The Posse paid $30 a pound for the Gold on a visit to Killen’s Saturday. It was excellent.

On its Web site, Snake River Farms says its "American Wagyu" beef brisket is "perfect for competitive barbecue or a first class backyard feast." The briskets "are rich with spectacular marbling perfect for braising, smoking or any long and slow cooking method," the site says.

Snake River Farms is a part of Agri Beef, based in Idaho.

Killen's has been a favorite of the Posse's for several years. The joint made Texas Monthly's recent list of the Top 50 places in the state, but did not crack the Top Ten.

On the podcast, Killen said he was frustrated by a lack of uniformity and consistency in briskets from a previous supplier. The inconsistency greatly complicated the cooking process, he said. His joint cooks about 800 briskets a week.

Photo of Killen's Barbecue in Houston.

Snake River Gold brisket is sliced on the cutting board at Killen's Barbecue. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Ken Spires

7 years ago

800 briskets a week and no profit? Sounds like restaurant suicide to me.
Killen's is a Houston landmark and beef prices are higher than ever but seems like you still want to make at least a buck or two off your brisket. He's actually prob losing money once you figure the labor, rub and wood into the cost of his brisket. I served SRF beef for years while living in Wyoming. It's a fine product but there are others out there that can produce amazing smoked brisket for less cost. And Wagyu?!! Seriously?!! Talk about never making a profit. Wagyu brisket is not necessary for a tasty, succulent finished product. IMHO

Damian Brum

7 years ago

What are your suggestions for other places to buy quality brisket? Thanks

Gary Jacobson

7 years ago

Good question Damian. Posse pit master Marshall Cooper has these recommendations: "Costco prime brisket - $3.99, Restaurant Depot prime - and choice - $2.80-3.20 #"

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