Pigs are the next cash cows.
Pigs can’t fly — but the price of pork sure can.
Bacon is a sizzling hot commodity right now. Research published by the firm Urner Barry finds that bacon prices in supermarkets are fluctuating between about $4.50 to $5.60 per pound; at their highest point in mid-June, prices were up 26% since the start of the year. What’s more, the cost of wholesale pork bellies, which is where bacon comes from, is up nearly 75% since the beginning of the year.
Why the jump? For starters, it’s grilling season, which drives up the price of pork every summer when people across the country are craving it. But there’s another reason why pork is costing a pretty penny: Supplies are at an all-time low.
According to the USDA, we have the lowest quantity of pork in storage now than at any point in the last 60 years. Department of Agriculture data released in June reveals that cold storage supplies of pork — pork that has been frozen and is then thawed out for consumers over the course of the year — are down 59% from last year.
And pork production season peaks in late fall and winter, and decreases significantly during summer, according to Russell Barton, Urner Barry’s pork market reporter. Less pork, plus greater demand, equals higher prices.
Culinary consultant Bianca Borges has another theory on why the price of pork is soaring. “Americans are bacon crazy,” Borges says. “I’ve seen so many bacon-flavored products coming on the market. Some will use actual bacon to flavor them — soda, candy, popcorn — and not only that, but non-edible products are using bacon as a flavoring too. Lip balm, perfume, toothpaste, sunscreen…” to name a few.
And growing interest among diners could have a part to play. “Pork belly is trending on every single progressive menu you see… Millennials love it,” Borges adds.
While grocery shoppers are already seeing prices rise in the supermarket, this hike seems not to have reached restaurant goers yet. While you might see some slight increases in prices for pork belly or bacon dishes, Barton says that restaurants generally keep their prices stable in situations like this.
“[Restaurants] know that the prices are going to come down again within half a year — they prefer to keep prices stable and not risk customer dissatisfaction,” Borges explains. “They can recover those costs in other ways,” without necessarily having to charge customers an arm and a leg.
The good news: Pork prices should stabilize as fall kicks in, Barton says — but notes that one goal will be to build up reserve supplies of pork for next year to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
As for short term sticker shock amongst die-hard pork fans? “If you’re experiencing pork panic, take a few deep breaths,” Borges says. “The colder months are going to bring back pork production.” And with that, should come somewhat lower prices.
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