Bacon prices have skyrocketed to all-time highs, and they might not go down anytime soon

And yes, that takes inflation into account.

This craving for pork chops is costing you about 7% more than 12 months ago. The average price of that slice of bacon to go with the Sunday morning spread has jumped nearly 28% in the past 12 months, according to data from the inflation-adjusted Consumer Price Index.

Supply chain issues and inflationary pressures that have become all too common in these times of a pandemic have certainly played their part in driving up pork prices, alongside a host of industry-specific influences. President Joe Biden’s administration, for its part, believes prices are high because a few large companies control the majority of market share, and has plans described to level the playing field.

According to the expectations of some analysts, the rise in prices is not expected to abate anytime soon.

How we got here

The national pork supply chain was one of the fastest to break down when the Covid-19 virus began to spread in the United States.

Panicked consumers bought freezers and emptied meat counters. The catering channel was shut down overnight, breaking a major arm in the supply chain.

Meat packing plants – where employees worked long hours close to each other – have become hotbeds of the virus. Lives have been lost, factories have been temporarily closed, and federal investigations have followed.
When these facilities closed, the backlog of animals increased, resulting in millions of pigs euthanized without processing into food. In addition, producers, fearing to outstrip demand with too much supply, have started to cut back on their breeding herds, which ultimately caused pork supply to drop this year, said Adam Speck, economist at IHS Markit.

Pork production is expected to end the year down 2% from 2020 levels, he said.

In terms of demand, that’s another story.

“Demand has been exceptional in the United States, moving more retail volumes than ever before,” Speck said in an email to CNN Business. “The combined effect of a smaller supply and higher demand for protein overall has contributed to this inflation.”

With a shortage of meat in cold stores late last year, the industry relied more on fresh animals, which in turn helped drive up raw material prices, a t he said, adding that it is likely that these costs have peaked and that indications from the futures markets show that prices are expected to return to normal by June 2022.

“But don’t expect a quick price concession over the next few months,” Speck said, “as retailers are generally slow to bring bacon prices down.”

Food, freight and labor costs have also increased significantly, said Trey Malone, assistant professor and agricultural economist at Michigan State University.

Not to mention global influences, especially the re-emergence of African swine fever.
Disease, incurable and fatal for pigs, has spread throughout Asia in recent years and arose in the Dominican Republic in July 2021. This is the first time the virus has been confirmed in the Western Hemisphere in 40 years, according to the National Pork Producers Council
It represents a double-edged sword for the American pork industry: the valuable export trade could increase in markets like Vietnam; however, the continued spread of the virus and its closer proximity to the United States has heightened biosecurity concerns.
If a foreign animal disease entered the United States, it would devastate the domestic pork industry and cause billions of dollars in losses and shut down export markets, according to NPPC.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration laid out a tiered plan to tackle consolidation and anti-competitive practices in the meat industry, which the administration says is creating inflation. Four companies control between 55% and 85% of the pork, beef and poultry market, according to economists from the National Economic Council wrote in a September 8 briefing.

The four major pork processors now control 66% of the market, doubling the market share from 1976, according to the NEC.

“This consolidation gives these middlemen the power to squeeze both consumers and farmers and ranchers,” they wrote.

Pork, beef and poultry saw some of the highest price increases among other food items since December 2020, climbing 12.1%, 14% and 6.6% respectively, they wrote.

In response, the stated plans of action of the Biden administration and the United States Department of Agriculture include the enforcement of antitrust laws; pricing surveys; providing $ 1.4 billion in pandemic assistance to small producers, farmers and workers; and the investment of $ 500 million to support new competitors.

Amid the high costs and continued volatility, some farmers, consumers, and business owners relying on pork simply have to sit down and eat it.

Miguel Escobedo, a chef who runs the Al Pastor Papi food truck in San Francisco.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business since the early 1980s and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said chef Miguel Escobedo, who runs the Al Pastor Papi food truck in San Francisco.

Escobedo’s traveling restaurant specializes in al pastor, a 24- to 48-hour marinated pork shoulder, hand-stacked in a cone shape and placed on an upright spit for roasting. The dish, developed in Mexico City, was inspired by Lebanese shawarma.

The 30 pounds of pork needed for the dish has doubled in price in recent months, he said.

“Sometimes you saw the market fluctuate. You planned budgets for the year and you knew some [prices] would be higher, “he said.” But nothing like that. “

Escobedo has chosen to be flexible by offering different dishes such as marinated shrimp al pastor, if the prices or supplies are out of reach.

“At this point you just have to adapt,” he said.

Dria White, 51, a resident of Emeryville, Calif., Reduced her grocery shopping from twice a month to once a month so she could save enough money. She buys less bacon than before and often searches for protein on Fridays for $ 5.

“It’s pretty good luck with everything you can find in [the grocery store] that you can buy in and out for a reasonable price, ”White told CNN Business following a recent trip to a grocery store in the Greater Bay Area. “Let’s be honest, if I want to eat, I will. . Let’s keep it real. If I am going to eat, I will most certainly pay for what I want to eat. “

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