Americans love their bacon. We love it so much that the national bacon reserves – or pork bellies in cold storage – have plunged to a level not seen since the government started keeping track in 1957.
But contrary to some national media reports Wednesday, we’re not running out. There’s no need to ration the crispy slices of savory meat.
The Ohio Pork Council sent out a news release about the declining reserves and created a website called www.baconshortage.com. Many media outlets picked up on the story, and some went so far as to speculate on a looming bacon shortage.
“Call it the first sign of the aporkalypse,” said the report from NBC News.
Pig farmers are certainly producing enough swine to go around. At the end of 2016 the country had the highest hog inventory since 1943, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We’re just eating so much bacon that we’ve depleted the national reserves.
Bacon is made from pork bellies. Frozen pork belly supplies were just under 17.8 million pounds at the end of 2016, which is down 13 percent from the end of 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The love of bacon is also spreading. Farmers have been exporting more pork recently, with a record 510 million pounds sent out of the country in November. One-third of that went to Mexico, the USDA reports.
All the increased demand is leading to higher prices. It’s something Clyde Sonnenberg of Sonnenberg’s Market and Deli is keeping an eye on.
“Bacon is sky high,” he said. “It’s $5 a pound. We’ve never seen bacon at $5 a pound.”
Sonnenberg is still selling his bacon at $2.99 a pound because he realized a price increase was coming and stocked up. He estimates he has enough of the cheaper bacon to last until the end of the month before he has to buy more.
“Maybe there will be some relief in the market,” he said.
Eggers Better Meats on South Perry makes its own bacon from 400 to 500 pounds of pork bellies purchased every week. They’ve noticed an increase in demand but have been able to meet it, said manager Kevin Solberg.
“We haven’t had any problems getting anything,” he said.