Bacon craze causes rise in pork-belly prices

Consumers love of bacon is causing pork-belly prices to reach record highs.

As more people reach for a pack of bacon at the grocery store, pig farmers are struggling to keep up the demand, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The price for pork-belly, the part of the hog used to make bacon, has risen around 80 percent in 2017.

Americans bought 14 percent more bacon at stores in 2016 compared to 2013, according to data from Nielsen. The increased interest in bacon means increased business for farmers — the national hog herd rose to a seasonal record of nearly 72 million in early June, but it hasn’t helped them keep up with the demand.

Bacon has become a staple in breakfast sandwiches, BLTs, lunch sandwiches and other trendy recipes like Cheesy Bacon Popcorn, Bacon Kraut, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Bacon Grits. Even fast-food chains are adding specialty bacon dishes like Arby’s “triple thick” bacon sandwiches, Wendy’s Bacon Queso Burger and Bacon Queso Fries or Frisch’s Primetime BLT Cheeseburger.

“Everybody and their mother is coming out with a new bacon sandwich,” livestock trader Dan Norcini told the Wall Street Journal.

Prices are at a record high for wholesale pork belly, the largest increase in price since 2013. Lean hog futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit a 2½-year high in early July, according to the Wall Street Journal. Local stores say bacon prices have increased significantly just recently.

“The bacon is out of sight,” said Dave Hoffer, owner of Zinks Meats & Fine Wines. “Especially in the last couple weeks, we had to raise the prices here because of it. There isn’t really an increase in demand from customers either, it’s staying constant.”

Altin Kalo, an economist at the Steiner Consulting Group, told the Wall Street Journal that high prices have lead butchers and restaurants to actually slice bacon more thinly or introduce alternate menu items. Other anaylsts say the high prices aren’t going to stop restaurants and customers from buying more bacon — it’s a year-long favorite meat.

“I don’t really think cost will affect the demand very much because people who like it and prefer it, the cost won’t deter them as long as it’s not ridiculous,” said John Rodgers, a production employee for Copey’s Butcher Shop in Medway.

Reporter Sarah Cavender contributed to this story.

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