As far as I’m concerned, bacon should be a staple in everyone’s diet. I mean, it’s not exactly good for you, and it’s getting more and more expensive every day… But it just tastes so good! And as this photo illustrates, it makes a damn fine sandwich.
Bacon is just about as perfect as a food can get, aside from the fact that recently, prices for it have been skyrocketing. You may not have noticed it all that much while wandering around the grocery store, however. This is because the package sizes sold in stores are shrinking, while the prices stay the same. CBC reported on this phenomenon back in May.
Limited supply, rising feed costs and an outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea across North America’s hog industry have pushed up the price of pork in recent months.But instead of charging customers more, some food companies have quietly reduced the weight of bacon packs while keeping prices unchanged.
Gilbert Kohlman, a butcher at Cantor’s Meats in Winnipeg, said he has recently noticed 375-gram packages of sliced bacon instead of the usual 500-gram packs.
“You will not see this again, the 500 grams,” he said, adding that the weight reduction translates to at least four fewer slices of bacon per package.
I noticed this myself recently. Like anyone else, I was used to going to the store and grabbing a pound of bacon, or maybe a few if they were on sale. I recall in months past occasionally coming across a sale on bacon where it would be priced at about $3/pound. A tough deal to pass up, even considering the fact that a lot of the bacon in these packs was rather full of fat. I went a while without seeing any of these sales, which also meant I went a while without buying bacon (blasphemy, I know!). On my last trip to the grocery store, I was delighted to see another $3 bacon sale. This time, I was even able to find a few packs that weren’t just full of fat. It wasn’t until I’d opened the package days later and was getting ready to cook that I realized there was less in the package. I didn’t even think to check the weight, which was – you guessed it… 375 g.
This obviously creates a problem, not only for your pocketbook, but also for conversation. You can no longer say, “I’m going to the store to grab a pound of bacon.” You have to say “I’m going to grab 375 grams of bacon.” Considerably more awkward.
But the inconveniences it places on us are nothing compared to what the pigs and pig farmers are facing!
U.S. pork prices have gone up by seven to 10 per cent from a year ago because of the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), which kills young pigs but does not affect humans.
The deadly pig virus has spread to Canada, putting agricultural officials in several provinces on high alert.
“The price spike that happened over the last couple of months is probably more … due to the virus than any other thing,” said Derek Brewin, an associate professor of agribusiness and agricultural economics at the University of Manitoba.
The spread of the virus has further driven down pork supplies, which have been reduced for several years as hog producers across North America went out of business because of lower prices and higher feed costs.
The Huffington Post wrote about this trend a month ago, quoting data released by Stats Canada about pork prices.
According to StatsCan data released Friday, the price of bacon in Canada jumped by 9.3 per cent in the past month alone, and is up 25.3 per cent over the past year.
That fact was flagged by Ilan Kolet, a Bloomberg reporter and former Bank of Canada economist, who tweeted this chart, calling it the “scariest part” of today’s inflation report.
— Ilan Kolet (@datanrd) June 20, 2014
One month later, they’re reporting that the price of bacon has continued to rise.
Bacon prices in Canada are nearly 27 per cent higher today than they were a year ago, as a crisis in the industry continues to push costs into the stratosphere.
Bloomberg reporter and former Bank of Canada economist Ilan Kolet tweeted the chart below, showing bacon prices surging by 5.8 per cent in June alone.
— Ilan Kolet (@datanrd) July 18, 2014
Pretty much the same chart as above, but at the end you can see the continued rise between June and July. Pork isn’t the only victim of inflation, however, with other proteins going up in price. I’d say “at least it’s not the only protein going up in price,” as if that’s a good thing, but really… that just means we’re paying more and more for ALL our food.
Ground beef is up 15.4 per cent over the past year. Canned sockeye salmon is 23 per cent more expensive today than it was a year ago. Good news on the chicken front, though — prices of poultry have stayed flat over the past year. Overall food prices grew 2.9 per cent.
There is one potential upside to those high bacon prices: It may make the bacon actually taste better. A recent study found that people find food tastier when they’ve paid a lot for it.
That last link in there is worth a look. I do like the idea that people appreciate their food more when they pay more for it, and because of that, I have a suggestion. See, generally the bacon sold in grocery stores doesn’t even come close to being as excellent as bacon you’d get from a proper butcher shop. Butcher shops tend to charge more per pound (or… per 375 g) for their bacon. So instead of paying whatever the grocery store is charging for a 375 g package, why not pay a visit to one of the numerous local butcher shops in town? You’ll be paying more for your bacon but it will pay off in two ways:
1) The bacon will be of considerably better quality, which one can assume will make it taste better
2) Since you’re paying more, you’ll perceive the already better-tasting bacon as tasting EVEN BETTER than that
Whether that’s really the way it works or not, I’m not sure. I will say this, though: The best bacon I’ve ever had certainly did not come from a refrigerated bin in the grocery store. It was freshly sliced at a butcher shop. So while there’s no fighting these inflating prices, there are ways to ensure every bacon experience you have is a great one.