US pig producers have quashed fears of a bacon shortage in the country.
Mild online panic spread after US Department of Agriculture data showed reserves of frozen pork belly – from which bacon is cut – were at a record low.
Hashtags including #BaconShortage and #BaconReserves broke out on Twitter.
But while some predict prices of the breakfast favourite may rise, the industry insists there is no danger of supplies running out.
Pork belly reserves had hit about 8.2 million kg in December, according to the government figures, compared with about 22.7 million kg a year earlier.
That was put down to fresh supplies being used as quickly as they were being produced, meaning less for freezing and stockpiling.
‘More pigs than ever’
The lower levels of pork reserves were pointed out by the Ohio Pork Council, a lobby group for pig farmers.
But it later claimed that the observation – as well as the setting up of a baconshortage.com website (which now seems to have been taken down) – was not intended to create concern.
“Today’s pig farmers are setting historic records by producing more pigs than ever,” Ohio Pork Council president Rich Deaton said.
Market analysts expect US pork production to rise by about 3% this year, with more processing plants in the pipeline to meet the increased demand.
Bacon is a staple in many breakfasts, burgers and barbeques, particularly in America.
Major restaurant chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s have also contributed to increased bacon demand after introducing all-day breakfast menus.
Pork belly prices also hit their highest level in more than a year on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange this week.
As a result, traders say wholesale pork belly prices are about 37% higher than they were at the same time last year, though this has not yet translated to significantly higher prices for consumers.
However bacon eaters will likely see the higher prices in about three months, David Maloni, president of research firm American Restaurant Association told Reuters.
It is not just in the US where pork availability – and prices – are a serious matter.
In China, the world’s largest pork consumer, the government has on occasions intervened by releasing more of the meat onto the market to curb prices and help control inflation.