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Aporkalypse No - US bacon shortage denied

Bacon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Americans consume on average 18lbs (8.1kg) of bacon a year per person

US pig producers have quashed fears of a bacon shortage in the country.

Mild online panic spread after US Department of Agriculture data showed reserves of frozen pork belly - from which bacon is cut - were at a record low.

Hashtags including #BaconShortage and #BaconReserves broke out on Twitter.

But while some predict prices of the breakfast favourite may rise, the industry insists there is no danger of supplies running out.

Pork belly reserves had hit about 8.2 million kg in December, according to the government figures, compared with about 22.7 million kg a year earlier.

That was put down to fresh supplies being used as quickly as they were being produced, meaning less for freezing and stockpiling.

'More pigs than ever'

The lower levels of pork reserves were pointed out by the Ohio Pork Council, a lobby group for pig farmers.

But it later claimed that the observation - as well as the setting up of a baconshortage.com website (which now seems to have been taken down) - was not intended to create concern.

"Today's pig farmers are setting historic records by producing more pigs than ever," Ohio Pork Council president Rich Deaton said.

Image copyright @ShaunCDavis/Twitter
Image caption Some Twitter users were horrified at the thought of depleted bacon reserves

US pork production is expected to rise by about 3% this year, with more processing plants in the pipeline to meet the increased demand.

Bacon is a staple in many Americans' breakfasts, burgers and barbecues. Major restaurant chains like Wendy's and McDonald's have also contributed to increased demand after introducing all-day breakfast menus.

In addition, over the past few years bacon has featured in a range of new dishes from bacon ice cream to bacon smoothies.

Pork belly prices also hit their highest level in more than a year on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange this week.

As a result, traders say wholesale pork belly prices are about 37% higher than they were at the same time last year, though this has not yet translated to significantly higher prices for consumers.

However, bacon eaters are likely to see the higher prices in about three months, David Maloni, president of research firm American Restaurant Association told Reuters.

It is not just in the US where pork availability - and prices - are a serious matter.

In China, the world's largest pork consumer, the government has on occasions intervened by releasing more of the meat on to the market to curb prices and help control inflation.


Super Bowl shortages? - Zoe Thomas, New York business reporter

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In 2016 avocados faced their own shortage

This is not the first time Americans have worried about a supply shortage of one of their favourite foods.

In 2015, a shortage of cauliflower sent prices jumping to nearly $7 per head after a cold snap hit production. The jump in the price came as cauliflower was becoming increasingly popular across the US.

Last year, there was an avocado shortage after the fruit went from being consumed mostly as a dip served with tortillas to being ubiquitously eaten in everything from wraps to desserts. A heat wave and drought in California, where many US avocados are grown, caused panic that prices would spike and the green treat would become a luxury item.

Stories about that shortage - much like this one about bacon - occurred very near to the Super Bowl, the final in American football. Super Bowl Sunday - perhaps coincidentally - is a time when many Americans host parties that feature dishes that use both bacon and avocados.

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