Canadian pork, bacon won't run out, but will cost more, industry warns

OTTAWA – Canadians don’t need to stockpile bacon despite talk of a looming shortage — but they may need to save up in order to bring it home.

While stores aren’t likely to run out of the so-called other white meat, prices will rise dramatically within four to six months due to limited supply, the Canadian Pork Council said Wednesday.

“The options for the consumer to purchase a relatively lower-priced pork product will be reduced, so they’ll be looking at, for example, 50, 75 cents or $1 a kilo more for a moderate cut of pork,” said Martin Rice, the group’s executive director.

Pork will stay cheaper than beef and chicken but sticker shock could lead some to cut back on the traditional breakfast meat, he said.

The threat of a shortage sparked a frenzy online, with many posting tongue-in-cheek messages of distress.

“Who wants to start hoarding bacon with me?” one read.

Still, the impact on Canadian bacon lovers pales in comparison to the hit felt by the country’s pig farmers, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat, Rice said.

A severe drought in the U.S. has driven up the price of grain, a major staple in hog feed, several industry groups report.

Rice said that’s forcing farmers to sell their herds because retail prices aren’t rising fast enough to cover the record-high pig-feed costs.

Those concerns mirror those raised by a British farming organization now sounding the alarm over what it predicts will turn into a worldwide shortage of bacon and pork next year.

Britain’s National Pig Association said pig farmers around the world are feeling the squeeze and selling their stock.

At least two major Canadian hog producers have filed for bankruptcy in recent weeks and Rice said others may soon follow suit unless they get some relief.

Saskatchewan-based Big Sky Farms, the second-largest hog producer in Canada, and Manitoba’s Puratone Corp. both cited the high cost of feed in filing for bankruptcy protection this month.

Rice said it costs roughly $180 to raise a hog that only fetches about $150 on the market.

While hog prices are expected to rise again by next summer, he said many farmers simply don’t have the savings to hold on until then.

“The hog industry is really going through a struggle here,” he said.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said this month he has asked officials to explore all assistance options under current programs.

In the United States, the government has introduced a pork-buying program in a bid to keep its pig farmers in business.

And the Chinese government is putting pork into cold storage, as a buffer against shortages and high prices next year.

Meanwhile, Major League Eating — the regulating body for competitive eating — issued a moratorium on bacon-eating contests in light of the projected shortage.

The league said in a statement it couldn’t “in good conscience” allow its members to eat bacon, given that one alone could consume nine kilograms in a 10-minute race.

Canada is the world’s third-largest pork exporter, sending more than $2.6 billion worth of pork products to more than 100 countries each year, according to the department of agriculture.