Food News

A Virus Is Killing Baby Pigs and, Even Scarier, Threatening to Cause a Bacon Shortage

You've probably read about other food shortages that are causing serious problems across the country. Limes are damn near a dollar each these days, and that's driving up the cost of everything from margaritas to tacos. Now, though, something a whole lot worse is happening: A serious illness in pigs is creating a bacon shortage.

A terrifying-sounding virus called porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is raging through pig farms across the Midwest. Piglets are especially vulnerable to PED, and there's little that pig farmers can do if their herd becomes infected. One farmer from Iowa, one of the states hardest hit by the disease, told The Associated Press that despite his best efforts to avoid the disease, it has killed over 13,000 pigs at his farm since November. Yikes.

No one is really sure where porcine epidemic diarrhea came from, but some speculate that it made its way to the U.S. by boat from China. Experts estimate that between 2.7 million and six million pigs have already been killed by the disease, contributing to the overall 3 percent decline in the U.S.'s pig population. Unlike mad cow disease and other meat-borne illnesses, PED (thankfully) doesn't spread to humans. But, you should probably head to your grocery store and clean out their cured pork supply, because bacon is about to get really expensive.

Since this time last year, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that pork prices have risen 13 percent since last year, and are now up to a whopping $5.46 per pound. A survey of prices at my local Kroger suggests that they're even higher than that, at least for the good stuff. Maybe spring and summer will offer a welcome respite for both pig farmers and consumers and bring lower prices.

Hopefully this won't impact the Texas Rangers' ability to sell $7 bacon on a stick, but bacon lovers can rest assured that their wallets feel the pain for at least the rest of the year. Pig producers will continue to pass these rising prices onto pig-loving consumers because they know that we'll pay just about anything for our smoky, salty, porky fix.

Don't even try to fool yourself into thinking that turkey bacon is going to get you through this shortage. This might be the time to consider becoming one of those Doomsday Preppers and clean out your local grocery store's shelves before it's too late.

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Amy McCarthy