Shayle Shagam, a livestock market analyst with the U.S.D.A., says bacon eaters can relax as the situation isn’t as dire as that report first indicated. “At the time, it showed the stocks of pork bellies, which are the primary component of bacon, were at the lowest level since the series began in the 1950s,” Shagam says. “The truth is that is a snapshot in time. That is what the stocks were on December 31st.”
Those stocks have since been replenished and the bacon supply is plentiful. In fact, Shagam predicts there will be a 5 percent increase in pork production this year.
Shagam says, “We would expect to see as increased pork production comes online, as increased supplies of pork bellies are available, the prices will be declining over time.” While bacon consumers will appreciate the lower prices, pork producers won’t, as they’re enduring several years of low commodities prices and higher input costs.
“We don’t forecast pork belly prices but we estimate the price of a hog in 2017 is going to be averaging in the high $35 range,” he says, “as opposed to about $46 in 2016.” A 250 pound pork belly yields about 23 pounds of bacon. Americans eat almost 1.7 billion pounds of bacon each year.