Amid popular reports of a possible bacon shortage, many consumers wonder what the future holds for their favorite cut of pork.
The future of U.S. bacon supplies isn’t clear enough for consumers to panic about a potential shortage in 2020, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist.
David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist, College Station, quoted Taylor Swift in saying we “need to calm down” when talking about numerous reports regarding a bacon shortage in 2020 that could be based more on expectations than current reality.
Exports to China have increased significantly since an outbreak of African swine flu led to large-scale culling of China’s swine herd. Growing exports of half-carcasses of U.S. pork to China is fueling concerns that U.S. supplies of pork bellies, the cuts that provide bacon, may not keep up with domestic demand.
Bacon supply on ice
Anderson said cold storage stocks of pork bellies are the highest he has on record going back to 1973. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported pork bellies in cold storage were up 34% from last year, reaching 40.7 million pounds compared to 30.4 million pounds in 2018.
Chinese demand for pork hasn’t let up and led to prices so high that U.S. pork is competitive despite a 62% tariff. Exports have steadily increased as China culled around half its swine herd and continues to struggle with controlling the African swine flu.
The National Pork Board reported U.S. consumption of bacon increased 2.4% from 2001-2013, with Americans consuming about 1.1 billion servings of bacon annually.
The board’s report also indicates bacon’s increased demand over the last few decades is due to its growing appeal beyond breakfast.
Rollercoaster market for bacon
Anderson said cold storage holdings could indicate bacon-producing companies and restaurants are building supplies in case there is a shortage and prices begin to rise. But he also noted that large belly stocks are related to record hog and pork production.
For now, Anderson expects U.S. pork exports to China will continue to grow as the Chinese continue to deal with swine flu.
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