Is Pork the New Lobster? Looks Like It's Destiny

Categories: Food News
In 2010, we saw a rise in the price of bacon. For 2011 and beyond, it's the whole hog.

In the past two months, the price of pork shoulder Crumbaker gets from Grand Western and other national suppliers has risen from a wholesale price of 89 cents to 1.40 a pound: a 40% price hike for a traditionally inexpensive cut of meat.

"I've never seen such a price hike in the 30 years I've been a butcher, "said David Crumbaker, owner of Smitty's Old Fashioned Butcher Shop in Oakland Park.

Just before Crumbacker felt the increase, USDA released September 2011 stats that show that the price of pork is up nearly 8% from last year. Compare that to chicken, which saw a 3% price hike.

Crumbaker said his suppliers attributes the spike to the US exporting pork to China, which had suffered a shortage this past year as herds were stricken with disease. David Warner, communications director for the National Pork Producer's Council, told Clean Plate Charlie that August stats that show that pork exports are up 23% from the same eight-month period last year.

Though demand is expected to continue with pork such an essential part of an Asian diet, US World Markets and Trade predicts a more modest increase of 3% for next year according to an October report.

But it's not just exports to China that's bumping up the price of pork. It's rising cost of fuel as well as corn that's used for feed that's "75% of the cost of raising a commercial pig," says Warner. The rising price of corn will continue, as much is used for the production of ethanol for fuel, the result in the recent US investment in ethanol distilleries.

Restaurants are also feeling the pork price hike, including Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, which has only been open for a month, confirms Melissa Trimp, spokesperson for 50 Eggs Restaurant Group. So far, the restaurant has avoided passing the increase on to consumers by buying local and buying whole pigs restaurant chefs butcher themselves.

Cue heritage breeds. Available at markets such as Lauderhill's K & G Brothers, Inc. Eden Farms raises grass and acorn fed breeds that are significantly more expensive per pound than commercial pork. Those prices are holding steady, says restaurateur behind Charm City Burgers and El Jefe Luchador and a partner of K & G Brothers. "Because of imports and feed getting so expensive, the price of pork has begun to equalize," he said. When it comes to the vast difference in prices between commercial pigs and heritage breeds, "what you're seeing now is a closing of the gap."

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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