There was big news in the world of bacon today. USA Today reported US bacon reserves have hit a 50-year low, explaining that the demand for bacon is outpacing supply. The article quoted Rich Deaton, president of the Ohio Pork Council, which was citing a report from the United States Department of Agriculture. According to Deaton, “Today’s pig farmers are setting historic records by producing more pigs than ever... Yet our reserves are still depleting.” This decrease in pork belly reserves is causing a very real increase in the cost of bacon, by about 20 percent in January alone, but Deaton also reassured the public, “While bacon may become more expensive for consumers, rest assured pork industry will not run out of supply.”
That didn’t stop the Ohio Pork Council from setting up the website baconshortage.com (which is apparently down right now). It also didn’t stop dozens of websites from reporting the next bacon apocalypse, warning that the US is running out of bacon.
Here’s the thing about purported bacon shortages, though. They happen all of the time. In 2012, Time warned of a “global bacon shortage” because of a statement from Britain’s National Pig Association that explained how pig herds were declining around the world (though one of the magazine’s economic reporters eventually explained that this was an overstatement). There was another "bacon shortage” in 2014, attributed to a rise in demand and a shortage of healthy pigs. Even in the last eight months, Extra Crispy has reported on bacon shortages in the United Kingdom and China.
As the New York Times explains, though, more often than not, these bacon shortages often aren’t actually shortages—and that includes the bacon “shortage” that was announced today. Yes, the national inventory of frozen pork belly is down, as Steve Meyer, the vice president of pork analysis for EMI Analytics, explained to the Times, but that doesn’t mean the bacon in your grocery store is going to disappear. These are just pork belly reserves we’re talking about. And even though there might be a lower supply than before, that doesn't mean bacon is disappearing. It just means the price might increase. (Don't you wish you paid closer attention in your economics class right about now?)
In an email statement to Extra Crispy, a spokesperson from the Ohio Pork Council explained that their president’s comments were misconstrued: “Media reports have inaccurately implied that our organization was suggesting that there is actually a shortage of bacon. Those media accounts ignored the statement from our President that there is not a shortage of bacon.”
So don’t panic, and don’t start buying up bacon and throwing them in your freezer for the forthcoming bacon-pocalypse. You’ll still be able to find enough meat to make that bacon-wrapped football for this weekend’s Super Bowl without any problems. And the next time you hear about a bacon shortage, take it with a grain of salt.