No Bacon Shortage, but Higher Pork Prices Likely Next Year

October 8, 2012 12:42 AM
No Bacon Shortage, but Higher Pork Prices Likely Next Year


No need to go hog wild.

By Tracy Turner, Ohio State University

Despite a report from Britain's National Pig Association last week predicting a worldwide shortage of bacon due to drought, the U.S. is not experiencing a pork shortage, an Ohio State University Extension swine specialist says.

But consumers can expect to pay higher prices at the grocery counter next year because of a decrease in pork supplies as a result of the 2012 drought, which has been the worst in decades, Steve Moeller said.

The drought, which severely impacted growers and producers nationwide, particularly in Midwest states, is resulting in a 13% drop in corn production - the lowest production since 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA's Oct. 4 drought update, much of Ohio was experiencing abnormally dry, moderate or severe drought conditions, mainly in the western, southern and eastern areas of the state.

A majority of Indiana was rated in moderate drought, with parts of the state abnormally dry and other parts still in severe drought.

The drought has forced pork producers to pay higher prices for feed, which makes up 70% of the cost to raise a pig, Moeller said. As a result, many producers are losing money.

"Pork producers were making about $10 to $12 per head in the beginning of 2012, but are now losing $40 to $60 per pig marketed," he said. "And that may continue through the end of the year.

"The drought has created a situation where feed costs alone are very near the market value of the pig. Producers are basically earning enough to just cover the cost of feeding the pig."

As a result, producers are starting to pull back, because they need to position themselves to not lose as much money in the short term, Moeller said.

"Producers are cutting their herds due to the cost of feed, and breeding fewer sows," he said. "There will be fewer pigs in the market come summer 2013.

"The reduction in pig numbers is going to play out in the form of higher prices for pork because there will be a smaller supply to meet consumer demand."

The USDA projects U.S pork supplies will drop about 1.3% next year versus this year, while consumer prices for meat, poultry and seafood will increase some 4%.

So while pork prices will be higher next year, there will very likely be plenty of pork for consumers to buy, Moeller said.


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