Apricot glazed ham National Pork Board

Welcome to the season of ham

We are now officially in the holiday season, so it’s fair to start talking holiday feasts.

Nothing sets the table, and the mood, like a beautiful Christmas ham. That is good news for the U.S. pork industry.

Patrick Fleming, National Pork Board director of Market Intelligence and Innovation, said during a Tuesday morning teleconference that holiday hams are a big reason that the fourth quarter of the year is strongest for pork sales. He says the fourth quarter of 2015 saw $3.6 billion in pork sales, 1.125 billion pounds, accounting for 28% of last year’s total sales. He expects to see a similar trend once 2016 fourth quarter figures are in, attributing pork’s stronghold in the meat case to pork’s flavor, versatility and value.

Not quite replacing turkey as the Thanksgiving staple, Fleming says hams have been finding a spot on the November holiday table. “Last year for the Thanksgiving timeframe, hams were up 10.3%, making Thanksgiving the second largest ham holiday,” he says. Hams were so hot for Thanksgiving 2015 that Fleming says “we had to pull some Christmas hams forward.”

Just in time for the holidays, ham is a better value with the average retail price down 7.2% compared to the same period last year, and Fleming says the results of that have been realized as ham sales have been strong the last few weeks and that trend in expected through the rest of the year.

Bundling isn’t just for internet and satellite TV services, as Fleming says some retailers have offered “buy a ham, get a free turkey” deals. Pork processors have answered the consumer call by offering various sizes of hams to suit a small evening dinner party for four or a holiday feast to feed a dozen. You should be able to find an appropriate sized ham to suit your needs. (Of course, for me the appropriately-sized ham is the bigger the better, because you can never have too many leftovers.)

To me, a good ham offers enough flavor as is, but apparently, that is not the case for all, as Fleming says new ham flavors are always being introduced to meet consumers desires, pointing out salted caramel as a new flavor this year. I love ham, and I love salted caramel, so maybe I could be a convert from a good straight-up smoked spiral-cut ham.

Regardless whether you like your ham fresh, hickory-smoked, honey-glazed, orange-glazed or even salted-caramel flavored, and if you’re feeding your immediate family or the entire clan, ham is where it’s at.

Enjoy ham, and your family, this holiday season.

TAGS: Business
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