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.
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.