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Will shortage and price hike make bacon scarce?

A shortage bacalong with hike price can mean only one thing: indulge enjoy it now!

A shortage of bacon, along with a hike in price can mean only one thing: indulge and enjoy it now!

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Updated: December 2, 2012 1:56AM



Now’s the time to invest in pork-belly futures. No, don’t call your broker, visit your grocer.

The price of bacon, pig producers warn, will shoot up next year. We’re not advocating hoarding, but some stocking up on pork seems prudent.

“A world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable,” the British National Pig Association warned last week. European Union herds have been cut by an average 5.2 percent, according to the trade association.

Farmers globally have been thinning herds because of massive increases in the cost of pig feed, a result of the summer’s droughts. All protein prices will go up, but pork will be most expensive because pigs eat mainly corn and soybeans, two crops that were hard hit. (Beef cattle mostly eat grass, up until they’re fattened for market.) Higher costs to raise swine and fewer hogs on the market mean you can expect less bacon for your buck in 2013.

Bacon won’t actually be scarce in the United States, said Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president, communications, for the American National Pork Board. The amount of pork available per person in America, today 46 pounds, is expected to drop to 44.6 pounds next year, according to Cunningham.

But demand is high. America’s ever-fattening taste for pork has expanded bacon-enhanced menu items by some 60 percent since 2001. Think bacon pie at Bakers Square and bacon sundaes at Burger King.

No wonder Joanna Pruess wrote in her 2004 cookbook, “Seduced by Bacon” (The Lyons Press, $24.95), “Bacon is far more than a food. Can it be a religion?”

The Pork Board calculates that “in 2012, we expect to slaughter 112,569,000 pigs — which when extrapolated out would result in about 2,347,907,918 pounds of bacon.” Food-service outlets, which purvey about 43 percent of the bacon eaten in this country, used 1.3 billion pounds of cured pork bellies last year.

“The belly used to be a drag on the market,” Cunningham said. No more.

USDA figures put the average advertised price of a pound of bacon at $4.27 last week. That’s down from $4.82 in September 2011, likely a temporary drop due to extra pigs hitting the market as farmers cut down their herds. Once the impact of lower porcine production kicks in, though, prices will rise.

“Any reductions in per capita supplies in 2013 are virtually certain to push retail prices to new record levels,” Cunningham predicted.

You can hedge your piggy passion a bit, but don’t try to fill your freezer with enough bacon to last till the prices drop — that’ll likely be in 2014. The USDA advises that bacon can be frozen only up to four months before quality begins to suffer.

So what’s a bacon lover to do?

Go hog wild while you can still afford it, and pig out now.

Leah A. Zeldes is a local freelance writer.

Bacon-wrapped
Bacon with sauce

Makes 12 servings

1/2 cup bottled mango chutney

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

6 slices thin-sliced bacon

12 slices Canadian bacon
(about 1/2 pound)

Wooden toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Stir together the chutney and mustard. Set aside.

Lay the bacon on paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with another towel and microwave on high 2 minutes, or until translucent. Cut in half crosswise.

Roll the Canadian bacon slices into tight cylinders. Wrap each in a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

Place on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Drain on paper towels. Brush generously with the mango mustard and serve hot.

Leah A. Zeldes

Candied Bacon Bites

Makes about 48 bites

8 slices thick-sliced bacon, cooked until almost crisp and blotted on paper towels

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup dark corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Ground red pepper to taste
(optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lay the bacon slices on an aluminum foil-lined baking tray.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon and red pepper in a deep microwave-safe bowl.

Cook on high until the sugar is melted, about 2 minutes, or heat in a small saucepan until the sugar melts.

Remove from the heat and brush the mixture liberally on one side of the bacon.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bacon is glazed.

Carefully transfer the bacon to a cutting board, glazed side up. Cut the bacon crosswise into squares and serve hot or at room temperature.

From “Seduced by Bacon”
by Joanna Pruess

Bacon-Pork Chops with BARBECUE glaze

Makes 4 servings

4 (6-ounce) boneless top loin pork chops, cut 1-inch thick

1 teaspoon coarse salt

4 slices bacon, preferably
maple-flavored

4 tablespoons barbecue sauce

1/2 cup lager beer

1 teaspoon canola oil

1/2 cup chicken broth,
reduced-sodium

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season pork with salt. Wrap bacon around edges of the pork and secure with a wooden toothpick.

Mix together the barbecue sauce and beer.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof large skillet over medium-high heat. Stand the chops bacon side down in skillet, leaning against the side of pan if needed. Using tongs, in sequence, turn and stand the chops along their bacon-wrapped edges to lightly brown the bacon, about 31/2 minutes (about 45 seconds to brown each section).

Place chops, wide flat side down, in skillet and cook until underside is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Turn the chops over.

Spread an equal amount of the maple mixture over the top of each chop, letting the excess run into the skillet.

Place the skillet with the chops in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Transfer each chop to a dinner plate and let stand while making sauce.

Pour out the fat from the skillet, leaving the browned bits in the skillet. Heat the skillet over high heat until hot.

Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits with wooden spoon, and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Top each chop with a spoonful of sauce and serve hot.

BLT dip

Makes about 3 cups

1 pound bacon

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 large tomato, finely diced

1/2 cup finely chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce

Cook the bacon, in a skillet or the microwave, until very crisp. Crumble into small bits.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir in the bacon, tomatoes and lettuce. Serve with tortilla chips veggies or crackers.

Leah A. Zeldes



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