In order to preserve the ability of the United States to continue to live and fight after a national catastrophe, the country maintains strategic reserves of certain vital commodities. Some of these reserves are maintained by the federal government, such as the strategic petroleum reserve and the gold reserve. Other are maintained by private industry groups. Now the industry organization that maintains a watch on the national bacon reserve warns that bacon may be nearing crisis levels.
In a story in USA Today, the Ohio Pork Council, the national watchdog for bacon production, warned that national bacon reserves were at a half-century low. The critically low bacon levels are in spite of historically high levels of bacon production.
“Today’s pig farmers are setting historic records by producing more pigs than ever,” said Rich Deaton, president of the Ohio Pork Council. “Yet our reserves are still depleting.”
At the end of 2016, the Department of Agriculture reported that the frozen pork belly inventory was at 17.8 million pounds, the lowest level since 1957. Frozen pork bellies are part of the pig that is vitally important in the production of nature’s most perfect food: Bacon.
“There are literally not enough little piggies going to market,” observes USA Today. Dark humor is often used to mask panic in a time of crisis.
Since hog production is up, the bacon crisis is apparently due to increased demand, both at home and abroad. The council noted that hog farmers export about a quarter of their total production.
Another factor in the crisis may be bad advice, no doubt promulgated by Big Bacon, that leads to an artificial increase in bacon consumption. For example, Youtube stars Rhett and Link have encouraged the use of bacon to solve a variety of problems ranging from puncture wounds to a “shart” to accidentally posting nude pics to the Apocalypse.
The Rhett and Link video was posted in 2012. Five years later, bacon levels are critically low. A coincidence? Undoubtedly not!
The potential severity of a bacon shortage could be the most catastrophic event to hit breakfast since the Duke brothers attempted to corner the market on frozen concentrated orange juice in 1983. The bacon crisis could be even larger since bacon is not just a breakfast food. The shortage could be felt in other meals as well due to the prevalence of the BLT, bacon cheeseburgers and bacon-wrapped everything.
Perhaps it is time for federal protection of the hog industry to prevent the export of this vital national product! Without swift and strong federal action, the increased demand will certainly lead to increased bacon prices. If the problem persists long enough, bacon may one day become a meaty treat that is only available to one-percenters. The tragedy of living in such a world would be unimaginable.
A sharp increase in the value of bacon might also lead to an increase in bacon-related crime. Don’t scoff at the thought of a multimillion dollar bacon heist. High commodities prices can and have inspired such crimes.
In 2012 (another coincidence?), thieves made off with $30 million in syrup from Canada’s strategic syrup reserve in Quebec. There is no confirmation on whether the value of stolen syrup was in US or Canadian dollars, but that is beside the point. The point is that when something becomes more valuable, it attracts unsavory elements.
A possible answer might be to develop bacon countermeasures (BCM) to deter bacon theft and make it more difficult to sell hot bacon on the black meat market. Invisible watermarks, tracking devices and etching serial numbers on each strip of bacon could help prevent bacon heists.
After getting us all worked up, President Deaton of the Ohio Pork Council attempts to allay our fears of a bacon famine. “While bacon may become more expensive for consumers, rest assured the pork industry will not run out of supply,” Deaton says.
But can we afford to take that chance?
I know not what course others may take, but, as for me, I’m heading to the grocery store to start my own bacon stockpile. Just in case.