Sunday, June 16, 2024

Barbecue season in Ottawa is cooking but rising meat prices are causing some to cut back

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It’s barbecue season again and the Butchery in Bells Corners has been busy for weeks.

“Barbecue season has been great. Off to a great start. Weather’s been phenomenal. It’s been on our side for sure,” said Butchery owner Mark Cantor.

Even though some cuts of meat, specifically beef, are more expensive than the rest, Cantor says it’s not stopping customers from buying.

“Steaks are our number one. Guaranteed. Rib steaks, rib eyes, New York, filet. People don’t want to sacrifice for quality. Do they spend more than what they’re doing in a grocery store? I’ll put a dollar for dollar against anybody in the city of Ottawa. But quality? I don’t think anybody can touch our quality that’s in our store,” said Cantor.

But there are indications the summer diet for Canadians may be changing.

“With higher food prices, people have made compromises,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

In a recent survey of more than 9,000 Canadians, 54 per cent said rising food prices are influencing what they grill, while 46 per cent said prices have not changed their BBQ habits.

“The most popular item in Ontario, or items in Ontario, are hamburgers and hot dogs. Close second is still the pricey beef,” said Charlebois.

Whatever’s on the menu for grilling outside, it means a place like Capital BBQ are also seeing sales rise as fast as the temperatures in Ottawa.

“It’s been amazingly busy. We lost snow early in the season, so everyone got out to their backyard,” said Joe Whitfield, partner at Capital BBQ.

For the past few weeks, Capital BBQ has been selling close to 100 barbecues every weekend, regardless of meat prices.

“It hasn’t really affected us. I think a lot of people just want to be outside with friends and family cooking. They’re finding alternatives to cook if they find some of the red meat might be a little bit more expensive,” said Whitfield.

At the Butchery, customers say food prices do affect choices, but not always.

“I don’t think on what, so much as how often. But certainly, you know, the prices are a factor,” said Wayne Foster, a BBQ enthusiast.

“We eat what we like. And, you know, we have beautiful weather. That’s the time to barbecue, right?” said John L’abbe, another BBQ enthusiast.

And for some, the time to BBQ isn’t limited to just the summer months. Spending money on meat 12 months of the year.

“All year round, to be honest with you. So I go a lot more in the summer, less dishes. And then, in winter time, I plow a little alleyway, and I smoke with the smoker as well,” said Chris Bentivoglio, another BBQ enthusiast.

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