America Has 40 Million Pounds of Unused Bacon in Reserve

It's our largest surplus in 48 years. So why are bacon prices increasing?

Bacon
Bacon surpluses are near record highs, but that could change quickly
Donald Giannatti / Unsplash
By Kirk Miller / October 23, 2019 11:40 am

The bacon trend is over, we declared in August.

And now we have some proof: More than 40 million pounds of pork bellies (the cut used for bacon) were being stored in refrigerated warehouses at the end of September, the most for any month since 1971.

But it turns out that excess may not last: Over the summer hog producers amped up herds anticipating more demand from China, where African swine fever had decimated the pig population. So while surpluses are high now, exports to China and Mexico are hitting record highs. And China actually prefers to buy hog carcasses, and then process them in-country, as opposed to individual cuts of pork.

“The theory is, if we continue to export split carcasses to China, it’ll [eventually] create a belly shortage,” as Dennis Smith, senior account executive at Archer Financial Services Inc, told Bloomberg. In fact, the pig crisis in China may actually push bacon prices up worldwide.

It’s a terrible pork trifecta: We have excess bacon, yet a potential shortage of bacon and the threat of increased bacon prices.

Might be a good time to consult The Bacon Bible.

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