Where’s the Beef?

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A 28 year business relationship between the Jamaica Broilers Group and the local franchise holder for Burger King, is on the verge of falling apart, due to a dispute over the price of beef.

It was an uncomfortable exchange of words between the head of Restaurants Associates Limited, the franchise holders for Burger King, Richard Lake and the CEO of Jamaica Broilers, Christopher Levy.

The two were addressing the reasons behind Burger King’s decision to increase the price of its products on Nationwide This Morning.

As of today, BK’s signature meal, a Whopper with cheese, costs $720 for a medium sized combo.

Just a few months ago, that same meal cost just $550.

That’s a 31% increase, which Lake says is because Jamaica Broilers has stopped using local beef in the patties it sells to them.

Lake says BK never knew until July of this year that Jamaica Broilers was importing 100-percent of the beef it uses to make the patties.

But JB CEO, Chris Levy says that’s not true, and in a bout of frustration, told Lake he can take his business elsewhere.

Levy says BK is aware of all the details of JB’s operations, and even approves their purchases and audits their company annually.

But Mr. Lake hit back, claiming that Jamaica Broilers refused to be audited this year.

It is not clear where the two companies will go from here.

It’s quite possible that BK will indeed begin looking elsewhere for Whopper patties, but for now at least, consumers will have to bite the beef.

Meanwhile, the public row between Burger King and Jamaica Broilers has brought other issues to the fore.

Broilers says it is forced to import all its beef because the local industry is non-existent.

Restaurants Associates partner Richard Lake says high import duties on beef are protecting a non-existent industry, to the detriment of consumers.

Lake is advocating for a removal of the stamp duty on imported beef, which he says would bring the down prices at his restaurants.

He says he wrote to Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier in October, but has not yet received a response.

According to Jamaica Broilers CEO, it will take some five years for the local beef industry to recover.

Meanwhile, large breeders like Jamaica Broilers are not the only ones feeling the pinch.

Small cattle farmers have also been impacted.

One farmer from Hanover who identified himself as Colin Wright says praedial larceny is behind the huge decline in the beef industry.

He’s also challenging Mr. Lake’s estimation of the cost of local beef.

Colin Wright, a cattle farmer based in Hanover.

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