Two years ago, dwindling supplies of pork belly sent bacon prices up and consumers in a panic over a possible bacon shortage. Over the last few months belly stocks have rallied to record levels, but bacon prices continue to climb.
According to USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam, at the end of September, there was just under 41 million pounds of pork bellies in storage, which was about 34% above a year ago.
“It’s the highest level since 1971,” Shagam says. “It’s a combination of both killing about 10% more hogs and live weights of those hogs being about 2% heavier, so more hogs and heavier hogs are going to give you more pork belly.”
Belly prices at wholesale are down, but only by a dollar a hundredweight. Shagam credits growing consumer demand for bacon retail.
“If we look at retail prices in September, they were $5.57 a pound compared to $5.50 a pound a year ago,” Shagam says. “So even with more bacon out there, people are paying higher prices for their bacon.”
As Shagam simply states, “people like bacon.”
“It is true that bacon demand is very strong, has been, and we’ve added a lot of bacon to restaurant items,” Shagam says. “We’ve added a lot of bacon to some products that I never would’ve thought I would have seen bacon added to.”