Americans are expected to eat approximately 50 pounds of pork per person in the year 2012. Most of that consumption will be from bacon and eggs for breakfast, BLT’s for lunch and bacon with dinner. More than 50 percent of Americans eat 21.7 grams of processed pork daily—that pork mainly consisting of bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and smoked ham, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in 2009.
But that may be about to change with the news of a global bacon shortage.
The story exploded via social media a couple of days after the National Pig Association of the United Kingdom said, on Sept. 20, “A world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable.” According to the group, new data shows that the European Union pig herds are becoming smaller and that this trend will be “mirrored around the world.” Drought in the U.S. and worldwide has lead to an increase in the price of corn—a staple food for pigs—and farmers are no longer able to afford feeding large herds of pigs.
Although panic continues to spread in articles like this one in Time magazine, the effect for the average pork consumer will likely only be a 5 to 10 percent increase in the price of bacon in the next six months, according to the article.
However, according to forecasts by the United States Department of Agriculture, it does seem that overall pork availability will decrease by approximately 300 million pounds. The total pork available in the U.S. for consumption is predicted to reach 18,669 million pounds by the end of 2012 and estimated to decrease to 18,295 million pounds by the end of 2013.
“A global bacon shortage! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE…much later than we thought thanks to the reduced salt and nitrates in our diet,” Stephen Colbert said in "The Colbert Report" on Sept. 26.
How bad can it really be?
Bacon’s high sodium and saturated fat content is cause for concern, according to WebMd. A shocking 68 percent of bacon’s calories come from fat, and 50 percent of those calories are saturated—not the good kind of fat. Every ounce of bacon has 30 milligrams of cholesterol. It is not surprising, then, that high levels of bacon consumption can increase the chance of heart disease and stroke.
It doesn’t end there.
As bacon is a cured meat, it is high in nitrates, a preservative that turns into nitrite once it is digested by the body. If eaten regularly, nitrite can increase the risk of developing cancer, according to fitday.com.
So perhaps we should celebrate the shortage as a path to a healthier lifestyle—it might be a blessing in disguise. Or we can keep freaking out, because a life without bacon is not a life at all.