Aporkalypse! Baconpocalyse! Bacon-geddon! “Pig out” now! The news that a global shortage of bacon and pork products is “unavoidable” has been met with mass hysteria, albeit mostly the ironic kind. But will there be an actual shortage of our beloved salted pork products?
Well, if “shortage” is supposed to mean a scarcity of supply so drastic that it’ll be nearly impossible to find bacon, then no. There is no shortage looming. While there’s no guaranteeing it, there probably won’t be rioting in the streets either—at least not due to the anger of the bacon-starved masses.
Here’s what is fairly likely to happen: Because this year’s drought wreaked havoc on the world’s corn crops, the price of corn has risen substantially. And because corn is used, among many, many other things, as feed for pigs, it is more expensive for farmers to raise pigs. Farmers pass along those costs to stores, and perhaps even decide that they don’t want to be in the pork business anymore.
The weather always has an impact on food prices. Unseasonably warm weather earlier this year in New England, for instance, brought about astoundingly cheap lobster prices. Corn is also feedstock for cows, so the price of beef is likely to rise thanks to the drought.
But how much will beef prices rise? Analysts have said somewhere around 5%, maybe 10%. That’s annoying, but hardly Armageddon.
When news recently began spreading of a looming bacon “shortage,” however, media outlets (us included) began pondering the possibility of crowds hoarding all the salted meats they can find. The subject matter naturally lent itself to the legions of jokers on Twitter, who offer thoughts such as:
This baconpocalypse will be hard on all of us, TeamBacon, but I promise you this: I’ll get through it. Cuz I’m buying a truckload. Really.
A concerned Colbert wondered, “Without bacon what will KFC put in between two slices of chicken in the Double Down? Roast beef? That’s unnatural, you’ll go to hell.”
It was a fun meme. But one that was less grounded in truth than most. Slate’s Matt Yglesias did the best job of definitively debunking the “unavoidable bacon shortage,” pointing out that the idea originated from the UK’s National Pig Association (an association obviously interested in promoting pork sales, and perhaps even pork hoarding), and that the “shortage” could more accurately be described as “a global increase in meat prices as a slightly delayed downstream consequence of the increase in corn prices.”
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The American Farm Bureau Federation has also proclaimed, wittily enough, that “The Aporkalypse Is Baloney.” (Ha!) “Pork supplies will decrease slightly as we go into 2013,” said Farm Bureau economist John Anderson, “but the idea that there’ll be widespread shortages, that we’ll run out of pork, that’s really overblown.”
Likewise, Christopher Hurt, an agriculture professor at Purdue University, said “alarmist” and “overblown” were the words that came to mind when considering the original take on the story, which made a global bacon shortage seem inevitable. “Bacon and all other pork products will be available in their stores and at restaurants for a total of 365 days in 2013, and even on their hamburgers,” said Hurt. “Pork produers and our food system are very reliable at providing food. Bacon will be more expensive in 2013, and some consumers may chose to not buy bacon and substitute an other form of meat/food product.”
It’s also worth noting that the average retail price per pound for bacon was $4.77 in the fall of 2010. More recently, the average has been $4.61 per pound. The USDA anticipates that prices for meat, poultry, and seafood will rise roughly 4% in a year’s time. In any event, even if pork prices rise a bit higher than that, bacon lovers should be able to cope.
A post at Grist.org offers some good perspective:
Before we get too drastic, let’s remember that this doesn’t mean there will be NO bacon, just that it will be more costly. These things will work themselves out, to a certain extent. If no one will pay extra for bacon doughnuts, there will be no bacon doughnuts.