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Bacon shortage?

Fresh Bacon (ThinkStock)

MOLINE — No need to worry, bacon lovers.

News earlier this week that near-record low reserves of pork bellies could result in a nationwide bacon shortage is hogwash.

On Monday, Jan. 30, the Ohio Pork Council issued a press release with the headline, “Ohio Pork Council warns of potential declining U.S. bacon supply.” It even set up a website, www.baconshortage.com, which has since gone dark. The council later issued a statement saying “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, while it’s true that reserve pork bellies, which are used to make bacon, are low, the bacon supply hasn’t been affected.

Steve Meyer, a pork industry economist, said he expects pork production to increase about three percent this year, which should boost pork production enough to avoid any shortages. Meyer said bacon prices at the store may inch up this winter but level off by spring.

The average price in U.S. cities of sliced bacon per pound was $5.10 in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  In December 2006, the average price in U.S. cities for sliced bacon per pound was $3.45. Still, Americans love their bacon, eating 18 pounds per person per year on average.

“We are just eating more pounds of it per person,” said Dale Claussen, a hog farmer from rural LeClaire, Iowa. Claussen said price fluctuations are based on simple supply and demand. Like Meyer, he predicts a bump in pork production, enough to keep a robust supply of bacon in grocery stores and on the table.

Hog farming represents about $7.5 billion in total economic activity for Iowa and $1.8 billion in Illinois. At any one time there are about 20 million pigs being raised in Iowa and about four million in Illinois.