The Pricey Consequences of the Bacon Craze

Bacon slice being cooked in frying pan

Bacon slice being cooked in frying pan

The craze for bacon on, in, wrapped around or infused into everything — from high-end restaurant fare to ice cream — has been raging for years and shows no real sign of letting up. That’s great for bacon lovers in all sorts of ways, but maybe not when it comes to paying the bill at the grocery store.

Demand for bacon is way up. In 2016, American consumers bought 14 percent more bacon in stores than they did in 2013. And that increased demand is outpacing supply, leading to surging wholesale and retail prices.

The cost of pork bellies, the cut of the hog that can be cured into bacon, has shot up 80 percent in 2017 alone, Bloomberg reports. Not only that, supplies held in reserve in cold storage have sunk to their lowest level in 60 years. Whoa.

All in all, U.S. bacon prices have been rising at an average rate of about 50 percent each year.

What’s that you say? Farmers should just raise more pigs to meet demand? Well, they have, but it’s still not meeting America’s insatiable appetite for bacon. Nationwide, in early June, the number of hog herds reached a season record of 70 million heads, but that increase still wasn’t enough to keep pace with demand, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics cited by Bloomberg.

Eventually, the industry may be able to increase hog herds to compensate, but in the near future, prices may rise even further, the business site warns. And sticker shock may not be confined to your grocery store meat aisle; they may extend to your next restaurant meal as well.

“About 80 percent of the top 500 restaurant chains have a bacon item on the menu,” Bloomberg relays, citing data compiled by the market research firm Technomic.

Will the surge in bacon prices eat into the restaurants bottom line — or will the restaurants instead pass them along to the consumer, hoisting the prices of menu items? Who knows? But if you’re a bacon fan, you may want to pig out now, before things get worse.

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Photo: iStock

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