Experts Say Rumors Of Pork Shortage Are Hogwash

Oct 9, 2012

A group of British pork producers recently sent fear into the hearts of bacon lovers worldwide by predicting an impending pork shortage.  They say drought will make it too expensive to produce pork, so farmers will sell off herds.  But here in the U.S., agricultural economists say the notion of a bacon shortage is hogwash.

Remember that part in Forrest Gump where Bubba Gump names a seemingly endless list of things a person can make with shrimp?  Well, consider John Berryhill the Bubba of bacon.  He lists things he makes with bacon.

“Quiches, pastas, salads, sandwiches, desserts, cakes, scones, muffins, chocolates….”

Berryhill is a Boise chef who owns the restaurant called Bacon.  Basically anything on the menu you can get with the meat.  Berryhill says his restaurant will cook over a quarter of a million slices this year.  So if anyone should panic over a pork shortage, it’s this guy. 

"I’m not worried with this," he says.

"It all depends on your interpretation of the word shortage," says Steve Meyer, an Iowa-based farm economist.   

"There isn’t a shortage in the classic sense of I can’t find the product or I have to stand in line to buy the product out there," he says.   "And there probably won’t be one in the UK, and there isn’t going to be one in the world and there certainly isn’t going to be one in the United States," he adds.

Meyer says lower yields in the cornbelt mean higher grain prices for hog farmers.  Some will shrink their herds because they just can’t afford higher feed costs.  And fewer hogs means less bacon.  Meyer predicts pork prices will go up next year by at least 6 percent, but no more than 10 percent. 

Back at Bacon, owner John Berryhill says figures like that will force him to make some changes.  His options include shopping around for the best possible price, raising prices, and developing new menu selections that have higher profit margins and get more customers in the door.  But really, he says, dealing with changing input prices is nothing unusual in the restaurant business. 

"You’re used to dealing with this," he says.  "You’re used to inconsistencies from producers.   That’s why you can roll with price swings."

Meyer has advice for Berryhill and anyone else who buys bacon.  A glut of meat now will likely mean stable process for most of the fall.  But he says that will change after the first of the year.  So in other words, stock up. 

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio