The U.S. has 40 million pounds of pork bellies sitting in warehouses, and Ron Swanson feels let down.

By Mike Pomranz
October 23, 2019

What a difference a few years make. Back in 2016, America was in a panic: The country's bacon reserves had hit a 60-year low. Granted, despite a bit of clickbait fearmongering, we were never in danger of truly running out of bacon—pork belly (the cut used for bacon) production was actually at an all-time high to keep up with consumption—but the fact that we were depleting our reserves meant that something would probably have to give. Apparently, it did—and now we have the opposite problem: Pork belly reserves are now at a nearly 50-year high.

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Over 40 million pounds of pork bellies were in refrigerated warehouses at the end of last month, the most since 1971, according to government data reported on by Bloomberg. In contrast, when the reserves crashed back in December of 2016, a mere 17.8 million pounds were chilling in storage (which, frankly, still sounds like plenty).

Of course, both bacon stockpiles and shortages make for great fodder. "Let's get our shit together folks," tweeted funnyman and recent Scotch whisky blender Nick Offerman—who portrayed the meat-infatuated Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation—in response to Bloomberg's "pile of uneaten bacon" headline. But much like we've recovered from our previous depletion, it appears that this excess stock may be short-lived and no additional domestic consumption will even be required. (Sorry, all of America!)

Bloomberg states that American pork exports to China have also hit weekly records recently, meaning that the Chinese are currently the beneficiaries of our massive pork supplies. Reportedly, that was the plan all along: China has been dealing with a bout of African swine fever that has caused the country to lose millions of pigs, so American producers ramped up herds so they could heed the call.

So just as America was never really in danger of running out of bacon back in 2016, don't expect anyone to be giving out free bacon on the streets to help deal with the current bacon glut in 2019. In the end, the pork bellies market—like any commodity—simply ebbs and flows over time. The only real difference is that bacon is a lot more delicious to talk about.

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