Looming Bacon Shortage

Apparently, the drought that has ravaged much of the United States this spring and summer is starting to really impact a lot of sectors of the food economy.  I could care less about the price of corn syrup for soda makers, but when it comes to bacon….

The recent surge in U.S and worldwide pigs being led to slaughter was a result of livestock producers reducing or thinning herds because anticipated feed costs are likely to be quite high through the winter.  This is predicted to lead to a long term shortage in the supplies of pork and, more importantly, bacon in 2013 and beyond.  Herds of animals do not just recover in a season.


I am an unrequited bacon lover.  In our house meat is not something that gets slapped onto every plate.  It’s no protein and two sides meal every night, but bacon is something we use quite a bit of in quite a lot of dishes.  A few ounces of bacon can turn a so-so pasta dish into something that disappears quickly.  Need to perk up that potato soup?  Just a little crumbled bacon goes a long way.

Granted, the pork that I buy does not come from the large confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) that dominate the pork producing landscape.  So, there is hope that I will not see the dramatic rise in prices that others have seen because the inputs are not the same and the methods are nowhere near similar.  I will be intrigued to find out if the drought has severely impacted the acorn crop this year, which is something that pasture raised pigs love to snack on.  If you want to see some happy animals take the time to watch pigs go crazy on a pasture sprinkled with acorns.  It’s amazing.

Some people are putting the blame on the U.S. government’s mandate for the use of ethanol in the fuel supply.  Ethanol, a product of corn distillation, competes for the same basic commodities that are used to feed livestock, usually cows and pigs.  Who knows?  Just looking at the chart for the price of corn in the U.S. tells me that the market is driving the price to insane levels regardless of cause:

The chart is from CNBC.com and was taken on Friday (9/28/2012).  It shows the price of corn for the past year.  Look at the past few months.  Wow!  The combination of reduced supply (drought) and consistent demand (feed and fuel) has led to a big increase that is going to reverberate through the economy for many months.  It’s also going to make my bacon more expensive.

Maybe the looming bacon shortage can teach us something about our food preferences and its attendant production system.


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