Relax, you bacon eater. Bacon isn't going anywhere and there's no aporkalypse in sight, mainly because the pigs we're getting it from aren't going extinct. After yesterday's headline freak-out about a "bacon shortage," everywhere from CNBC to The Washington Post to the Christian Science Monitor to the Baltimore Sun to our brand new siblings at Quartz, cooler heads are prevailing on the potential porkless future. Let's start with NBCNews.com contributor Ben Popken who makes a very good point:
You can't run out of bacon unless you make sows extinct or someone fixes the prices.— bpopken (@bpopken) September 26, 2012
What Popken means is there will always be bacon because there will always be pigs (obviously), and prices may rise and fall but the pig species will live on. So basic biology out of the way, let's move on to economics. Slate's Matthew Yglesias, another writer turned off by the bacon apocalypse frenzy, eloquently explained the idea why price fixing needs to happen before we can start calling it a "shortage":
Shortages arise when price controls lead to a situation in which consumers want to buy more of something than actually exists, which can lead to government rationing. In our economy there will still be plenty of bacon on the shelves, just priced high enough to deter some people from eating as much of it as usual. ...
And here in the United States at least, bacon happens to be more expensive than ham, pork chops, or the USDA’s “all other pork, excluding canned and sliced” catch-all category. It’s more expensive than chicken, and it’s more expensive than ground beef.
Let's read the press release that spawned a thousand stories again. It's put out by the trade group that represents British pig farmers, the National Pig Association, and it sets out a pretty familiar free-market solution: a rise in bacon prices will lead to more pig farming. "British supermarkets can protect consumers from shortages and steep price rises if they pay Britain's loss-making pig farmers a fair price," it says. We don't know much about the relationship between British pig farmers and the supermarkets buying their bacon, but we're pretty sure that if there's really a shortage of bacon and a spike in prices, the farmers will start raising more pigs to meet the demand. Meanwhile, those consumers who need protecting from higher prices can do their part, too! "In its Save Our Bacon campaign, NPA is asking shoppers to make a point of selecting pork and bacon with the British independent Red Tractor logo, as an increase in demand for British product now may help persuade supermarkets to act before it is too late." Too late? Oh, just relax and dig into that bacon sundae. And thank a clever press release for a bunch of fun, but really scary headlines.
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