The real economic crisis: Bacon

Bacon is so much more than breakfast food, and the price is about to spike -- at the peak of the BLT season.

By Karen Datko Jul 5, 2011 6:38PM

Everything tastes better with bacon, don't you know (well, except maybe ice cream).

 

So we read with dread a report on CNBC's The Pony Blog about how the price of bacon is soaring just as fresh garden tomatoes are ripening. There is no BLT without the bacon, blogger Cindy Perman correctly observed. She wrote:

Retail bacon prices hit $4.77 a pound in May, according to the Labor Department, and Rich Nelson, director of research at Allendale, told Reuters that it could reach near $6 a pound in the next few months.

Sadly, she's right. We bought a pound of bacon on sale this weekend for $4.99. Now we wish we'd bought more than one package. (Bacon freezes well.)

 

Bacon is just one of 14 grocery staples that are getting noticeably pricier. However, others on the list, like bagged salad, sliced deli ham and ground chuck, don't carry the emotional wallop of higher bacon prices.

 

Others share our pain. Perman's post called bacon prices "the crisis we should be panicking about." "Even bringing home the bacon is getting too expensive," "MelancholyMan" lamented on The Pony Blog.

 

What's next? Will membership fees for the bacon of the month clubs go up too? (Yes, there are such things.) Post continues after video.

How can bacon lovers cope?

  • Freeze it. I normally do this with bacon anyway, storing several individual servings in a freezer bag. Then it's handy for breakfast or as a key ingredient in my favorite recipe for made-from-scratch baked beans.
  • Buy the low-cost "bacon ends and pieces" packages, recommends "river" at The Consumerist. They won't have uniform thickness, but you can adjust cooking time.
  • Check the bulk-buying prices at the warehouse stores.
  • Eat less of it. Really, it's not good for you.
  • Use Bacon Salt as a substitute, Mr. Baconpants blogger Jason Mosley (who is amazingly thin in his blog photo) recommended to Perman. Might have the taste but won't have the crunch.  

Why the price increase? Corn is pricey -- it hit a record high in June -- which means smaller herds and fewer mouths to feed.

Also, bacon is so much more than a breakfast food. Who doesn't love a BLT in the summertime, with a freshly picked tomato? Plus, Brad Tuttle says at Time, bacon is being showcased at lots of restaurants. "Denny's 'Baconalia' is the most indulgently obvious example," he writes. (That menu does include a maple bacon sundae.)

 

It's part of a discouraging trend. Bacon, which is made from pork bellies, used to be a cheap food. "Until last year, we'd never seen pork-belly prices above $1," Robert Manly, vice president of Smithfield Foods, told Gannett News Service.

 

Pork bellies spiked last August before prices dropped again, but have since climbed to $1.30 a pound and could again reach or even exceed $1.50 a pound in late summer.

 

The not-too-distant future looks brighter. Farmers seeded the second largest corn crop in 67 years this growing season, which should translate to lower retail prices for related foods early next year, The New York Times reports.

In the meanwhile, what's your plan to adjust to rising bacon prices?

 

More on MSN Money:

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

18Comments
Jul 6, 2011 5:49AM
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Please allow someone who grew up as a small farm midwestern farm kid to make a comment.  The ethanol movement was started in many cases because corn was essentially worthess.  ( Corn sold for over $3 a bushel in the 70's, priced around $1.50 some years in the 90's )  Suprisingly, food wasn't too expensive in the 70's; so why, adjusted for inflation, is corn prices the problem now?  No, energy prices are what is driving ALL of the price increases; and without ethanol, yes, food might be 3% cheaper as produced, but would be 6-9% higher because of energy/transportatio​n costs. ( The so called food; processed crap, that this nation eats is handled 7-12 times before we get it. )  A better answer would be to buy local food.  It would be healthier, ease energy costs, and would stop funding countries that hate us.
Jul 6, 2011 7:16AM
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I will go deeper into the "corn economy"  It started after WW2, when this county had enomous capacity to to produce phosphates and ammonia.  ( components in bombs )  So America encouraged farmers to use chemical fertilzer, instead of natural, sustainable ways, of raising food.  "Sustainable", does not make CEO's rich,  so that is where our government steerd us.

( and for those of you who want the government to provide, to take care of us,  this should tell you where the "Government" interest is really about.  Think, and act, for yourselfs.

Jul 6, 2011 7:28AM
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I am not surprised.  I drove to Branson MO from Ohio the first week of June.  I saw first hand so many corn fields either planted with standing water in them or not planted at all and saturated with water.  Given the floods,  the heavy rain season and inablilty to even turn a field let alone plant showed me I should expect higher prices.

 

Bacon tastes great but is terrible for you.  Give it up for a year, loses some weight and drive demand down. 

Jul 6, 2011 1:13PM
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Please allow someone who grew up as a small farm midwestern farm kid to make a comment.  The ethanol movement was started in many cases because corn was essentially worthess.  ( Corn sold for over $3 a bushel in the 70's, priced around $1.50 some years in the 90's )  Suprisingly, food wasn't too expensive in the 70's; so why, adjusted for inflation, is corn prices the problem now?  No, energy prices are what is driving ALL of the price increases; and without ethanol, yes, food might be 3% cheaper as produced, but would be 6-9% higher because of energy/transportation costs. ( The so called food; processed crap, that this nation eats is handled 7-12 times before we get it. )  A better answer would be to buy local food.  It would be healthier, ease energy costs, and would stop funding countries that hate us.

 

There are other things besides energy prices driving commodity prices; inflation and speculation.

 

Inflation (as apposed to general price increases) is caused by printing money. Because of mathematical flaws in the design of how fiat is created the money supply must continuously grow. The FED sets goals to achieve this need. For my example, I will be assuming a constant rate over time say 4%. 4% doesn’t sound like much but it is 4% of the current year and 4% in addition to all the previous years (4x4x4x4x4 to the nth power). When the money supply grows faster then demand, as a function of overall activity, you have inflation. When the money supply has to grow constantly to avoid deflation you have a mathematical flaw that is unsustainable causing price instability.

 

Speculation also causes price instability. This is where the mathematics of leverage become a problem. When leverage ratios are too high speculators have pricing power. Big players can manipulate the price up and down creating extraction margins to capture the wealth created by hard work pretty much at will.

 

So, why is the price of bacon $4.99 a pound? All of the above.       

Jul 6, 2011 10:29AM
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bacon rules. period. whether it be strips, ends, or pieces. most of mankind enjoys a love affair with bacon. it's that smoky, salty, crunchy taste. it will be bought no matter what. like gas. so muslims wont eat it. who cares? more for us. bacon, bacon, bacon. god bless america!
Jul 6, 2011 5:15AM
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So what.

I enjoy a tomato sandwich just as much when the maters are Maryland grown and vine ripened.  A little lettuce and mayo...mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Jul 6, 2011 12:00PM
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There is no food or other inflation. My government tells me so. My government would not lie to me.
Jul 6, 2011 11:03AM
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Oh my goodness, this is bad news indeed. Crying  I guess bacon has moved into the 'luxury goods' category. Who needs caviar and champagne? Just give me my bacon! I just wrote a cookbook about bacon, and I hope the prices come down soon so we can all enjoy as much as we like.
Jul 6, 2011 12:03PM
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I hope bacon never gets expensive. I think it should be free because it is SO GOOOD!
Jul 6, 2011 9:28AM
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I agree with you Raven Mad, I love a home grown Alabama mater sandwich, I grow my own! 

Jul 6, 2011 9:37AM
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I'll bet the muslims are having a panic over this and extremist are probably planing attacks.
Jul 6, 2011 1:59PM
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Solution:  Easy peasey!  They make the price "soar", I stop buying Bacon!

 

Results:  Bacon piles up and begins to spoil.......prices come back down!

 

God we Americans are soooo spoiled and ignorant.

Jul 6, 2011 7:28AM
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Just another way that the public gets screwed.  The article said now that tomatoes are ripe, bacon goes up.  Supply in demand has nothing to do with the price.  No bad weather....just plain greed.  Like when gas goes up 50 cents a gallon in Ohio just before the 4th of July....just plain greed.  I will not buy bacon.  Period.

Jul 6, 2011 9:17AM
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Congress should crack down on the bacon speculators driving up the price.

There must be a 20 % " Iowa Spring " premium on bacon and while the wall street speculators get rich the working , eating, middle class go hungry.

Jul 6, 2011 12:17PM
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I always buy my bacon in bulk at CostCo (4 lbs for about $12) and freeze it.  Also, when the local grocer is having a sale on bulk bacon at the butcher counter for $3 lb, I'll buy from them (they have really yummy applewood smoked bacon!), break it down into smaller packages and freeze it.  I always have a few pounds in reserve in my freezer, right next to the butter (which also freezes well and is cheaper in bulk).

 

I'm going to make sure I put a few extra pounds of bacon aside to ride out this price swing!

 

Jul 6, 2011 10:14AM
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I buy ends and pieces. 3lbs for 5.89

Jul 6, 2011 10:33AM
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Turkey bacon is much cheaper and much better for you.  I bought several packages to freeze for $1.80 each.
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