Save Your Bacon: Pork Belly Inventory Down, but Bacon Prices Won’t Go Up

Update, February 2

According to the Ohio Pork Council, excess demand for frozen pork belly, which is most commonly used for bacon, is vastly outstripping supply. The Council stated that this is leading to a shortage in one of America’s favorite cured pork product. Last December, national frozen pork belly inventory reached 17.8 million pounds, the lowest recorded level since 1957.

Consequently, prices for bacon and similar pork products are already rising. The Council stated that wholesale pork belly prices have increased by 20 percent during January. This price increase may also be fueled by foreign demand for pork as exports consist of 26 percent of farmers’ production.

However, on February 2 other media outlets and pork industry analysts pushed back on the assertion that declining reserves would lead to a price spike. Steve Meyer, the vice president of pork analysis for EMI Analytics, stated in an interview with The New York Times, “To imply that there’s going to be some shortage of bacon is wrong. There’s plenty of hogs coming. There’s going to be plenty of bacon.”

Though Meyer conceded that the inventory of frozen pork belly has gone down, leading to increases over the last two months, he assured consumers that there is nothing to fear. “But it’s not as if we’re going to run out of bacon,” he added.

Rich Deaton, the President of the Ohio Pork Council, also pushed back against some reports predicting a severe bacon shortage. Deaton said it was not the intent of the Council to create a panic, adding, “We can’t control how the news is interpreted.”

The Council had registered baconshortage.com, and Deaton too endeavored to explain the strategy behind that site:

“If somebody Googled that, they’d get on our website, and the information there is actually to quell the fears that we’re going to run out,” he said. “The demand is high and us pig farmers, not only in Ohio but throughout the U.S., have risen to the occasion and are going to meet that demand.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of sliced bacon per pound had actually declined during 2016 by approximately 9.8 percent; however, with wholesale prices rising and reserves decreasing, this trend will likely reverse to more accurately reflect the long-term trend. Over the past ten years, bacon prices have increased from $3.36 per pound to $5.10, a 51.7 percent increase.

Ron Swanson has some helpful tips that could come in handy in case everyone loses their bacon, which he gave in response to 2012’s bacon shortage.

With climbing prices, consumers will have to think more the next time they bite into a BLT or some bacon and eggs.

For more, visit Fortune and USA Today, or view the historical price data here.

Read the update on this story from The New York Times.

Copyright for image: Photographer, Stock Photo, License Information

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