July 12, 2011


US pork and bacon prices at near-record high



One-third of America's favourite summertime sandwich, the BLT, will cost more this year, as bacon and pork-belly prices soar to near-record highs.


"These (prices) are probably the highest I've ever seen," said Harry Strohman, owner of J.L. and Sons meat market in Spring Garden Township.


The national average price of a pound of bacon is up to US$4.77 per pound, a 23.5% increase from the price last year at this time, according to the Bureau of Labour and Statistics. That ties the record-high price for the meat, set in October 2009.


Other pork products, such as boneless ham, have also seen double-digit percentage-point increases from last year.


One of the major reasons for the increase is the growing cost of feed, which is made mainly from corn, a product in high demand because of its use in ethanol production.


"We're seeing other demands for corn fields," said Amy M. Bradford, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council. "We're seeing more corn being planted for ethanol production instead for feed mills."


With less feed available, the cost to raise pigs rises. "The pork producer has to pay more to produce that animal," Bradford said.


That leads to higher prices at the meat counter. "The farmer can't bear that load without passing it on to consumers," said Linda Spahr, Penn State cooperate extension educator. "You can't sell a pig that cost US$40 to produce for US$39."


However, prices could fall slightly heading into the fall, since pork and bacon prices typically rise during the summer, Bradford said. "When it comes in the hog production cycle, supply is typically lower during the summer," she said. "Summer is a high-produce season and people are looking to make things like BLT sandwiches with their fresh tomatoes."


The good news for consumers is that the Pennsylvania pork industry is doing well, which could stabilize local prices in the future, Spahr said.


"Prices on meats are typically on a two- or three-year cycle," she said. "We see the same thing happen with milk prices - there will be a big rise, and then it levels off."

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