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Are you planning ahead for higher pork prices?

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Recent articles detail the short- and long-term effects of last summer’s drought on meat prices. Devastated corn crops drove feed prices higher, which led producers to send more of their herds to the slaughterhouse sooner than they would have in better years, which means right now, there’s a bounty of meat, especially pork.

Beef supplies showed signs of starting to decline already and chicken stockpiles were down, but pork inventories rose 28% in September, to levels not seen in nearly a century, Bloomberg reported. The story cites an Agriculture Department report that also documents a 31% rise in ham stockpiles in the past year and a whopping 79% increase in the amount of pork bellies in U.S. warehouses.

Pork bellies are where bacon comes from, a perennially popular meat that never seems to go out of style and increasingly shows up in more dishes including doughnuts at shops such as New York City’s Doughnut Plant and a limited-time ice cream sundae launched last summer at Burger King.

Novelties aside, most pork served in eateries comes in the form of bacon and breakfast sausage, but restaurant chains including Noodles & Co., Outback Steakhouse, Golden Corral and Red Lobster are taking advantage of the lower prices to add pork offerings to the lunch and dinner menus, as Nation’s Restaurant News reported. Even beef-centric steakhouse Smith & Wollensky has added a pork chop entree, the story says.

The future is a different story, though. As restaurants and supermarkets make their way through the current supplies and farmers don’t have the number of animals needed to replace them, prices will start to rise. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom — tighter supply typically means higher prices. Still, some commodities traders are betting lower on beef and pork futures, as analysts warn that consumers may balk at paying more for beef and turn away from pork toward poultry as the holidays approach, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Still, it’s likely that ongoing low supplies will drive prices higher in the coming months. “I think this is a short-term situation,” Narciso Perez, head of Narciso Perez Cattle and Trading in Albuquerque, N.M., told the Journal last week. “I expect by next week, we’ll be a couple dollars higher” per hundredweight for live-cattle.

Supply issues aren’t just affecting the U.S. Global meat consumption, up 15% since 1995, declined slightly last year compared with 2010 as production fell in response to droughts and outbreaks of zoonotic diseases including foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever and bird flu, the Los Angeles Times reported. Not surprisingly, pork comprised 37% of the meat produced and consumed worldwide, making it the most popular meat around the globe.

Are you taking advantage of plentiful pork supplies now? How will you handle it when prices go up? Tell us about it in the comments.