What a difference in a decade...

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Darrell AndersonDarrell Anderson It’s August of 2003, and someone tells you that the price of corn will exceed $7.00/bushel within 10 years. Your next response would probably be, “Really, I suppose an increased demand for bacon is going to drive up it’s price, and bacon will be worth as much per pound as a ¼” trimmed loin too?”

Much to my amazement, both of those predictions have come true. It obviously causes me to ponder what the next 10 years will hold for the pork industry, or what major trend might emerge that stretches my imagination today.

As I reflect on the changing landscape of our industry, the bacon phenomenon is truly an incredible development. With all the focus on dietary health, and the increased consumer awareness of fat content, I would not have predicted that bacon would be the shining star it is today.

I’m sure many of you have seen the “Bacon – the duct tape of the food industry” chart floating around. It shows the many uses of bacon as it is wrapped around everything from filet mignons to vegetables to Twinkies. According to pork industry statistics, bacon accounts for over 18 percent of pork consumed in the home.

But perhaps the most amazing development is how bacon has exploded as a featured item on restaurant menus: It has doubled in the last few years and appears about three times as often as ham.

Who would have ever believed that there would be not one, but two or three TV shows dedicated to the amazing uses of bacon? I can’t think of another product from animal agriculture that has commanded so much attention and focus in such a short period of time.

We now find ourselves in a similar position as the chicken industry when they discovered the marketing power of “wings.” They went from trying to breed chickens without wings, to breeding chickens with four wings to meet the demand.

A 200-pound pork carcass yields about 15.5 pounds of cured bacon. If the demand continues to skyrocket, we will need to figure out how to breed more “belly” into our hogs.

The porkbeinspired web site describes bacon as follows: “The cut used to make bacon comes from the side - or belly - of the pig. When it is cured and smoked, it becomes bacon. An abundance of fat gives bacon its sweet flavor and tender crispiness.”

“An abundance of fat” – that statement solidifies my belief that “flavor” wins out over “leanness” every time. There might be a lesson here regarding our efforts to make our hogs too lean.

What will the big surprise of the next 10 years? Maybe with our recent attention given to the China market, it might be “pigs feet”!

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Hyatt Frobose    
Manhattan, KS  |  August, 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Thanks Darrell for an excellent post! I completely agree with your thoughts and I think as an industry we may not fully recognize the value of the belly as a portion of the hog, due to its traditional position as a secondary product behind loins/hams. Today, I see the belly as the rib/shortloin of the pork carcass and we have to adjust our production methods to capitalize on the consumer fervor currently demanding more bacon. I think that Darrell presents a great challenge to produce a greater proportion of bacon per hog. There are enough bright minds in this industry to be able to adapt, we just need to put the resources and support behind the new ideas that can lead us in the right direction!

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