Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

August 19, 2010

Increase in bacon prices helping pork producers regain profits

Tipton — Without it, it’s just a boring veggie sandwich.

With it, it’s a one-of-a-kind taste perfect for a hot, summer evening.

During the summer — especially in August when produce is fresh — nothing compliments tomatoes and lettuce on a sandwich like bacon.

That’s pork bacon: Bacon substitutes need not apply.

However, consumers are finding it’s costing a lot more to make a BLT sandwich because of the rising price of bacon.

Consumers are currently paying record-high prices for bacon; prices for other pork products are also expected to increase because the number of pork farmers and the size of their herds are both declining.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of wholesale pork bellies, which are cured and sliced to make bacon, are up 72 percent in the past year to around $1.43 a pound, the highest price since at least 1998.

Since June, retail bacon prices have averaged more than $4 a pound; the highest since at least 1980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There’s only a fixed amount of bacon you can get from a hog,” said Chris Hurt, a Purdue University agricultural economist, “There’s only one belly to be sliced and cured so when you have a small supply of hogs, you are going to have a small supply of bellies. Short supplies lead to higher costs.”

Earlier this summer, the UDSA reported nationwide hog inventories of 64.4 million, down 3.6 percent from last year.

Agricultural economists expect bacon prices to increase in August, said the Iowa-based National Pork Board.

The NPB reported the U.S. consumes more than 1.7 billion pounds of bacon annually at restaurants and other food service companies. Furthermore, in the food service industry, besides ground pork, demand for bacon is the fastest-growing of any pork item.

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