Central Texas BBQ joints quick on turkey, modifying menus

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Turkey is being taken off the menu at some native eating places amid a nationwide turkey scarcity brought on by Extremely Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

With the vacations across the nook, one Waco-area restaurant is making changes to ‘meat’ the wants of shoppers.

“It hasn’t been easy,” stated Phillip Helberg, proprietor of Helberg Barbecue. “It’s been the source of a lot of sleepless nights recently.”

When Helberg does sleep, he’s dreaming about BBQ.

“It’s for sure a lifestyle, it’s a pretty incredible community to be a part of, so we’re all in,” stated Helberg. “A hobby became a passion, became an obsession, and then eventually a business.”

In 2018, the Houston-native and his spouse opened their very own BBQ enterprise with a meals trailer outdoors of Pinewood Espresso Bar in Waco.

The subsequent yr, they moved out to a store in Speegleville and opened that Might.

The enterprise survived the pandemic and provide chain points, nevertheless, Helberg Barbecue is now dealing with one other hurdle: a nationwide turkey scarcity.

“I kind of feel like we’re pretty groomed and seasoned to deal with these kind of things, but this one definitely hurt,” stated Helberg.

Recognized for his or her pesto-stuffed turkey, Helberg says the scarcity is hitting them laborious.

“It was actually the first menu item to even be highlighted or written about in Texas Monthly Magazine, and so that kind of put us on the map,” stated Helberg. “We do a lot of turkey sales around Thanksgiving, we kind of bank on it, we use those sales, that revenue, to be able to close for a couple of days and to give our staff some much needed time off, and so the uncertainty of whether or not we’ll be able to provide that, and to provide for the families who are counting on us…we want to be able to come through for those people and deliver.”

In line with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, this Spring 5.4 million turkeys have been depopulated to forestall the unfold of HPAI, equating to about 2.5% of the U.S. business turkey trade in 2021.

A couple of weeks in the past, Helberg put in an order for 15 containers of turkey breasts: they solely acquired two.

“That was the point in time where we says ‘there’s just no way we can do this,’” stated Helberg.

Consequently, they’ve taken turkey fully off of the in-store menu.

“We don’t want to do this, this isn’t ideal for us, we’d much rather have our turkey on the menu, we love it, our customers love it, we would have it there if we could get it,” stated Helberg.

He says prospects have been disenchanted however are understanding.

“Most people understand, and in the meantime, we’ve been able to pivot and add herb-crusted boneless/skinless chicken thighs to our menu, it’s not 100% the same but it’s pretty close,” stated Helberg. “We ran it this last week and it’s been very popular, so hopefully that gets us through until the shortage is over.”

Distributors say the scarcity is predicted to final till March or April of 2023.

Within the meantime, Helberg has been working to search out extra freezer house to stockpile no matter turkey they do get in and reserve it for vacation turkey orders and pre-paid catering orders.

“We’re having to jump on things a lot quicker, and therefore we need to find freezer space to store those so that we can be sure to commit those turkeys to the people who are ordering them and not spoil by that time,” stated Helberg. “We thaw them out about a week or two in advance of Thanksgiving and then we’ll brine them, and then we’ll smoke them a couple days out from Thanksgiving, and then we have a big pickup day the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.”

Costs are additionally being impacted.

Helberg says, two years in the past, he was paying $1/lb for entire turkeys: this yr he’s having to pay $3/lb.

“Even though we don’t make as much on a whole turkey we’re selling for Thanksgiving as we would sliced by the pound here in store, we feel that’s more important,” stated Helberg. “There are families who have grown to have our Thanksgiving turkey as part of their tradition every year, and we don’t want to let them down.”

For extra on Helberg’s Thanksgiving choices go right here.

Central Texas BBQ joints quick on turkey, modifying menus

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