We reckon East Austin has hit the big time as now USA Today has come to town to report on the high profile police busts of Sam’s Barbecue, Willie’s Barbecue and La Morenita.

For those new to the story. An organized group of shoplifters were heisting meat from local grocery chain HEB, taking it to various restaurants and selling it on the down low. In a lengthy piece penned by Elizabeth Weise the particulars of the case are gone over in great detail.

Would that local media pursued the affair with equal diligence.

28 restaurants in Austin were approached by undercover officers. Only the three mentioned agreed to purchase the purloined meat.

Our favorite quote from the article comes from Scott Stanley of the Tacoma Washington police department speaking on a similar affair in his town “They say ‘You go out and steal me $150 in tri-tip (roasts), and I’ll give you enough crack for a week.”

We’ve had some interesting would be transactions laid out for us in the past but nothing nearly as intriguing as crack cocaine for sirloin. Maybe we’re just hanging out with the wrong crowd.

To make it worth their while Austin Police made sure each restaurant indicted purchased a minimum of $1500 dollars in stolen flesh.

Thereby making it a felony.

We have to wonder what sort of deal was being offered on brisket as it’s one of the cheapest cuts of beef we peruse on our multiple trips to Fiesta Mart each month.

Douglas Powell a professor of food safety at Kansas State University raises an interesting point in the article; “…… if restaurant owners are willing to cut corners and buy street meat, what else are they cutting corners on in the back kitchen? It doesn’t inspire confidence.”

With this in mind, we wonder what effect this affair will have on Sam’s, Willie’s and La Morenita should they actually be able to reopen?

Have they lost the confidence of the eating community in Austin or will they once again be embraced? We imagine a bit of both. The die hard fans of Sam’s aren’t going anywhere. But there will definitely be some sort of backlash.

If they manage to reopen.

Moving up the chain.

Cattle rustling is still big business in Texas, Weise reports. Organized crime has moved into the stockyard with unwitting steers being loaded up in the dead of night and taken from the bosom of their family farms.

Best quote from Larry Gray of Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth; “”We don’t find many city boys who decided to steal some cattle.”

If you’ve ever tried to load a 1000 lb steer in the back of a cattle truck you know this to be true. It takes an experienced hand to be able to coax one of these beasts into doing what you want him to. Definitely not a job for a city slicker.

Ms. Weisse has written an excellent article. But one thing is missing. We want to hear from the people who were actually doing the thieving. What happened to them? Witness relocation program? On a beach in Playa del Carmen? Back in the meat game?

They’re brazen enough to be up on the Twitter. Check out @atxmeatbandits

This is the one aspect of the story that is not being reported on. We’ll hit the streets and talk to some local torpedos and heaters and see what they have to say.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-08-06-meat-thieves-restaurants_n.htm

all barbecue coverage on this site here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Barbecue

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