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What is up with pork belly prices?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Celebrity Chefs Light Up The Strip At Vegas Uncork'd By Bon Appetit's Grand Tasting At Ca
Bacon supplies might be tight but no shortage. Don’t start that rumor.

Pork bellies prices are on fire, scaling past all-time highs set during the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus year of 2014. Last Friday, fresh pork belly prices rose 4.5 cents, nearly doubling the cost of the wholesale pork carcass. Market participants and pork producers are enjoying the boost in prices, but remain optimistically cautious about strong prices.

Bacon is a rock star. No one can deny it. It is honestly a household staple. It makes everything taste better. Right?! However, bacon has taken on a whole new role in food establishments in recent years. Pork bellies are on menus from fast food chains to fine dining restaurants. Consumers are devouring handcrafted food items, and pork bellies play nicely into that scene. Chefs are getting creative. Foodies are demanding more. And pork fits well into the scenario.

So, why the fresh high prices for pork bellies? It goes back to the elementary lessons of supply and demand. According to market analysis, pork bellies’ supply is tight. The latest Cold Storage report by the USDA shows stocks of frozen bellies at a record low. Basically, the bacon stash is depleted, and it is time to restock the freezers.

Like all commodity markets, swings in prices are going to happen. What goes up must come down. For now, hog producers and market participants are just enjoying the ride, but hanging on tight.

Nevertheless, just because pork bellies supplies are tight today, it does not mean we are running out of bacon. Do not start that rumor. America’s pig farmers are doing an excellent job of raising more pork this year, as pork production is anticipated to grow by 3-4%. So, no matter if you enjoy bacon the good old fashion way, chocolate-covered or on top for an ice cream sundae, just keep eating it — America’s pig farmers will make more.

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