VEGA News Item

Will Cheap Feed Save the American Food Industry’s Bacon on 9th August 2010? - 11/08/2010

A crispy rasher of bacon is becoming an increasingly costly indulgence in the USA

1.  Record high prices are increasingly giving Chicago’s traders cause for concern and driving recourse to the versatility of bacon and its success for manufacturing purposes. “A crispy rasher of bacon is becoming an increasingly costly indulgence in the USA, where a surging appetite for pigmeat and cutbacks in farmers’ swine herds have pushed the price of pork cuts to an all-time high,” reports the Guardian (03 August 2010). On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange the cost of pork bellies, which are used to produce bacon, has risen by more than 65% in the last 12 months and the wholesale price of “pig product” reached $135 per lb at the end of July 2010. Analysts say that “farmers reducing pig herds during the recession, together with swine flu and high feed prices, took their toll; meanwhile demand for bacon is rising as consumers trade down from more expensive meats.”

2.  Chip Whalen, a risk manager at Commodity and Ingredient Hedging, a consultancy in Chicago, states that “the supply of hogs in the USA is much lower than a year ago. There’s a lot of additional usage of bacon; the BLT is very popular at this time of year, and a lot of restaurants feature bacon on their menus in salads and sandwiches.” The surging commodity price has found its way into supermarkets in the USA. The Bureau of Labour Statistics reported last month that retail prices for sliced bacon reached a 30-year high of $404 per lb in cities in the USA in June, an increase of 18 cents on the previous months.

3.  “British consumers and customers of bacon are feeling less of a squeeze,” the Guardian reports. Most British Pork is either domestically produced or imported from Denmark. BPEX, which tracks the pork market in Britain, reported rising prices this summer, but they were still below last year’s peak. In the 4 weeks to 16 May British Consumers spent £93 million on bacon, up 9%. “We’re really a beef and poultry consumer market, but during the recession, as the economic downturn has gone on, people have substituted to pigmeat and pork products,” said James Park, a senior analyst at BPEX. “A lot has been done in the media on how versatile pork is, how it can be used as an alternative for pricier cuts,” he says.

4.  Bacon is traditionally seen as a stalwart of thrifty cookery, but its use has latterly changed over the years and is increasingly seen as “a way to add a little zest to burgers and lunchtime dishes.” In the USA pig farmers suffered 2 consecutive years of losses as “grain rocketed in cost and swine fly took hold – causing a dip in consumer demand despite no scientific risk of human contagion, plus a ban on US pork exports to China,” states the Guardian.

5.  “We’ve had some producers go out of business,” says Dave Warner, a spokesman for the US National Park Producers’ Council, who welcomed the recent upturn in demand. “Maybe we’re getting word out that a lot of cuts of pork are lean, healthy, and nutritious,” he adds. Bacon remains “a culturally sensitive issue,” pork meats being shunned by certain religions – “in both the USA and UK and events in “religious” methods of killing for meat extend across a range of animals, including birds and fish, and they bring into focus changes proposed by lay authorities and animal welfarists. Europe is entertaining opinions advanced by priesthoods and fundamentalists and is entertaining increasingly differential bans on killing of animals “stuck” without prior attempts at pre-slaughter to ritualized cuts (of the throat) and bleeding out. Earlier comments by VEGA and veterinary professionals publish the debate and try to arouse objective and merciful discussion, which is now edging to appreciation of our Portfolio of Eating Plans, intended to accommodate changes of diet acceptable to all parties aiming at reductions of consumption of meat and dairy in a respectful way.

6.  In a surprisingly vicious outburst directed against animal welfarists who have been campaigning effectively to oust unmodified kosher and halal methods of killing with least delay, Animal Aid managed to drag in accusations of anti-semitism and discrimination. It is true that the Jewish Vegetarian Society has been lamentably feeble in these demonstrations and examples, but VEGA has been dealing with all methods of killing animals for food and other purposes to further human ends in the discussions we’ve been holding with the Halal Food Authority, the Veterinary Public Health Service (which has recently entered a group of specialists included in the British Veterinary Association’s alliance), the Food Standards Agency, and Federation of European Veterinarians. As we have reported on our website we have had discussions with Professor Colin Blakemore, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, to seek the least cruel methods of killing under the conditions required by the Home Office, the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and in practices involved in commercial enterprises such as zoos and circuses; further, the year began with advocacy and example to apply our suggestions of dietary change as an adjunct to Christian ritual and of interest to all other consumers in the Lentils for Lent campaign, which recur shortly at harvest festivals for all faiths and persuasions or none; and immediately, we are involved in merciful and safe dietary changes opening the celebration of Ramadan. Yet to come is the annual hajj this coming November.


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