Porcine Obsessions: 50 Shades of Bacon

Photograph: Getty Images Close

Photograph: Getty Images


Photograph: Getty Images

Here’s a new parlor game: Come up with all the bizarre pairings of bacon and consumer products that you can, and Google them to see if they exist. Bacon car? Bacon lamp? Bacon barrette? Yep, yep and yep. Raise the bar to bacon sofa, bacon toilet and bacon glasses and the results continue to reward, with a sort of, a kind of and a direct hit for bacon glasses.

Americans like bacon a lot. This is a nation where 78 percent of Americans surveyed said they'd support a petition to declare bacon the official national food of America.

So any whiff of a bacon shortage tends to worry lots of people. In September, 2012, a press release from the United Kingdom’s National Pig Association began, “A world shortage of pork and bacon next year is unavoidable.” It made national news in the U.S., even if U.S. bacon and U.K. bacon aren't quite the same thing. A similar pork crisis arose in China in 2008. There, a limited supply of pork, alongside always outsized demand, resulted in a 74 percent year-over-year price spike in March, 2008, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Related story: Baconholics Undeterred by Pig Prices at 30-Year High

And now the U.S. faces the great pork price shock of 2014. Declining supplies of pigs as a result of a deadly virus have sent retail bacon prices up 10 percent so far this year, to $6.106 a pound in June. That's the highest since at least 1980, government data show. The rise in bacon prices far outweighs the rate of inflation. In 1980, the price of a pound of bacon was $1.271; if that price rose with inflation, bacon would be $3.64 a pound today.

The good news: You can save your bacon. In June, frozen warehouse inventories of bacon reached 84 million pounds. That's about double where they were a year earlier, according to the USDA. At home, unopened packages of bacon can be frozen for about a month; a vacuum-packed leg of prosciutto, bacon's uppity relative, can last months. If you'd rather temper your addiction and wean yourself off the stuff, this bacon apartment in China may help.

Add your bizarre bacon consumer finds in the comments section, or feel free to lard up wealthwatch@bloomberg.net with e-mails.

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