According to Britain’s National Pig Association, a world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable.
But as Slate points out, is the claim of a bacon shortage by a pork trade association really a reliable prediction, or do UK pork vendors want British consumers to buy more of their product at higher prices?
It’s true that the drought has elevated corn and soybean prices this year, and a feed shortage has led to sharply declining herds across the US and European Union as farmers liquidate stocks early to avoid the higher cost of feed.
But prices will eventually rise for all meat, not just pork, because the US is the world’s largest exporter of corn and soybeans.
And as Slate’s Matthew Yglesia notes, what the British call “bacon” isn’t the same as what Americans call “bacon.”
“Their bacon is from the back cut of the pig and corresponds to what we call ‘Canadian bacon.’ Our beloved bacon, made from pork belly, is known in the United Kingdom as ‘streaky bacon.’”
In other words, the issue is the shortage of corn and soybeans, and the resulting higher price for feed. There will be a global increase in meat prices as a consequence of the increase in corn prices, but there shouldn’t be any actual shortages.
According to the USDA, in U.S. warehouses pork supply soared to a record last month, rising 31% to 580.8 million pounds at the end of August from a year earlier. The surge was a result of farmers thinning out their herds because of the high cost of feed.
According to USDA estimates, beef output will slump to a nine-year low in 2013 after drought damaged pastures from Missouri to Montana.
Last summer, the USDA reported the impact of the US drought on the Corn Belt was the worst since 1956.
Global Food Prices On The Rise
Los Angeles Times writer Tiffany Hsu, also points out that global food prices jumped 10% in July from the month before, driven up by the severe Midwest drought which has pushed the price of grains to record levels.
The price of maize and wheat rose by 25% from June to July, and soybeans rose by 17%, according to the Washington-based organization.
The Times noted the sharp price jumps are attributed to the Midwest drought, which has destroyed more than half of the country’s corn crop.
“The drought, the worst in decades, has pushed the price of corn to record prices. Corn futures have jumped about 60% since the drought started in late June. They are now trading above $8 a bushel.”
“We cannot allow these historic price hikes to turn into a lifetime of perils as families take their children out of school and eat less nutritious food to compensate for the high prices,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
“Countries must strengthen their targeted programs to ease the pressure on the most vulnerable population and implement the right policies.”
In 2011, the Food Price Index, a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, reached its all-time high at the beginning of the year.
And according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Food Price Index rose nearly 40 percent higher in June 2011, than a year earlier.
Higher food prices has caused demand for more expensive brand-name food products to plummet as cash-strapped consumers flock to cheaper off brand items in droves to save money.