High prices of pork are making it difficult for Americans to bring home the bacon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index for the average cost of one pound of sliced bacon broke $7 for the first time last month.
That represents a price increase of about 28% from just a year ago when a pound of bacon cost an average of $5.56.
According to CNN, bacon prices are the highest they've been in the U.S. in the last 40 years, even when considering inflation — and they're not expected to fall in a significant way any time soon.
Supply chain issues
Perhaps the biggest culprit in the skyrocketing price of bacon is the pandemic.
When restaurants and commercial eateries like school cafeterias shut down in early 2020, it threw supply chains out of whack. Companies that produced meat for commercial use suddenly had no one to which to sell their products.
In addition, many major meatpackers were forced to close at various times in 2020 due to COVID-19 outbreaks among their workforce.
All of that meant there was less demand for pigs in 2020. Farmers, suddenly left with too many hogs, were forced to thin herds for 2021 to cut back on costs.
Now that demand for pork has steadied, there is less supply to meet it, causing prices to rise.
African Swine Fever
In addition to supply chain concerns, CNN reports that African Swine Fever has been on the rise in the past year. The disease is incurable and fatal to pigs. The virus was spotted for the first time in the Western Hemisphere earlier this year.
While it's not widespread in the U.S., the disease caused the global supply of bacon to fall, which further raised prices.
According to The New Republic, California — one of the country's largest agricultural centers — is preparing to implement new regulations aimed at making chicken and hog farming more humane.
The laws are attempting to limit the cruelty of so-called "factory farms" that confine animals to tiny cages prior to slaughter. The new laws could cause the cost of farming to go up, and farmers and manufacturers would likely pass those increased costs on to consumers.
When will prices fall?
IHS Markit economist Adam Speck told CNN that he expected supply chain issues caused by the pandemic would level out by June 2022. However, said that doesn't mean that prices will rapidly fall back to pre-pandemic levels.
"Do not expect a rapid price concession the next few months, as retailers are typically slow to bring bacon prices back down," Speck said.
The Biden Administration is also aiming to enforce antitrust laws on large farms, which it hopes will bring the cost of pork down in the future. The White House says four firms control between 55% to 85% of the market in the pork, beef and poultry industries.
By enforcing antitrust laws and offering pandemic-related assistance to small farmers, the Biden administration hopes to eliminate price-fixing among large firms in the future and promote competition to further bring prices down.