PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- At Honey Bear's BBQ in Phoenix, owner Mark Smith says the most popular thing on the menu is the pulled pork. They easily go through a few hundred pounds every few days. Lately, Smith has been a busy man, pulling 12 to 14-hour shifts. 

"I get up at six o'clock in the morning," he said. "By seven I’m hitting the stores and before I open I have pretty much found everything I need."

There are two locations in the Valley, including on Van Buren near 48th Street. Smith has been smoking meat for about 34 years and has never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time they are doing online orders and like so many others had to change the way they work.

Last month Arizona's Family told you about a warning from Tyson Foods about an upcoming shortage in steak and pork.

Smith says it might take him 200 miles to find what he needs and in one trip he said it took him 65 miles to find ribs. "Certain places the prices have doubled," Smith said. "I mean beef brisket… two, three weeks ago I was paying $2.48; now it’s $5.68. Pork I was paying $1.18; now it’s $2.68." 

The restaurant has had to increase menu prices. A pound of brisket at Honey Bear's BBQ went up by $2, which was a tough decision for Smith to make because he doesn't want to gouge people.

Experts say there is not a lack of meat in the U.S. The issue is the packing facilities and the supply chain. Some big plants slowed or shut down because workers got sick. CNN reports that "compared to last year, according to Nielsen, the price of both fresh and processed beef rose nearly 12% the week ending May 9." 

Arizona’s Family spoke to Steve Chucri, the president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. It includes about 2,500 members across the state. He said the meat issue hasn't impacted them in a detrimental way quite yet, but they have noticed an increase in prices.  

Chucri says many restaurants have pulled back their menus anyway because they're not operating at full capacity. They don't have the staffing to be able to offer all the array of menu items they usually do. Beef dishes are one of the items that might be cut, Chucri said. 

"I would just tell my restaurateurs… be patient," Chucri said. "Especially the steakhouses that rely on it. We’ve seen a ripple effect. We haven’t seen it devastating Arizona yet, but my concern is if this continues well into the future we’re really going to have a problem on our hands."

Meanwhile Smith remains hopeful. A self-described "jovial" man, Smith enjoys talking to people and running restaurants is deeply personal for him. "I started working in the restaurant business when I was 9-years-old," Smith said. "Back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa my cousin had a fish market and they usually had me come in and scrub the floors. And then by the time I 14 I was cooking hamburgers."

The dining room at the BBQ spot opened for the first time on Friday. They are moving ahead slowly, and cautiously, he said. Chucri says they estimate about 50 to 55% of restaurants are open for dine-in again.


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