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RISING BACON PRICES TO IMPACT CONSUMERS
Reuters reports:

Bacon lovers beware: U.S. prices for the greasy salty meat are set to jump in the coming months due to dwindling supplies.

Wholesale prices for U.S. pork bellies that are sliced into bacon on Wednesday touched $1.73 per pound, the highest since August 2015. In January, prices climbed 56 cents - the largest monthly spike in at least four years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

Many other pork cuts, from ribs to loins, are falling in price as the number of hogs in the United States rise to the largest level since World War II. But strong demand for bacon to serve on sandwiches, next to eggs and in other dishes has propelled wholesale bacon prices and reduced stocks in cold storage.

Bacon eaters will likely see the higher prices in about three months, said David Maloni, president of research firm American Restaurant Association.

Part of the current shortage stems from big promotions on bacon by restaurants and grocery stores last summer, when pork belly prices fell to 80 cents a pound, the lowest in more than a year, Maloni said.

In a November call with analysts, restaurant chain Wendy's touted sales of Baconator sandwiches featuring six strips of Applewood smoked bacon as helping business. The company also said it had offered Baconator fries at "an attractive price point" of $1.99.

BaconFreak.com, which sells dozens of varieties of bacon and bacon-themed products online, will assess whether to raise its prices over the next 90 days, Chief Executive Rocco Loosbrock said.

"Of course as pork bellies increase in cost, our margins shrink," he said.

Pork belly inventories in cold storage in December were 17.8 million pounds, the smallest for that time of year since the USDA began tracking the data in 1957.

Inventories typically expand in the fourth quarter as consumers favor other cuts, such as ham. Food companies also store belly supplies for the summer to use on bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.

The Ohio Pork Council, which represents hog producers, on Wednesday said "there is not a shortage of bacon." The council sparked media reports on the issue and concern among consumers after registering the website baconshortage.com last week.

The council registered the website as part of an apparent promotion. The council did not respond to requests for comment beyond its statement.

But its statement did not stop bacon lovers from commenting.

"Forget the political unrest. This is a real crisis America! We're having a #BaconShortage!" Kathi Yeager (@KathiYeager), a radio personality in Oklahoma City, tweeted on Wednesday.


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