Brace yourself: The bacon shortage is coming

Don’t panic. Your prices will probably go up because the free market is awesome and capable of signaling where it needs the most bacon when, and to whom it is most valuable, so there won’t be full bacon stoppage. Or, bacon lines. Though if you were going to queue up for something, certainly that’d be it.

A virus never before seen in the U.S. has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it’s threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10 percent or more.

Scientists think porcine epidemic diarrhea, which does not infect humans or other animals, came from China, but they don’t know how it got into the country or spread to 27 states since last May. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

The U.S. is both a top producer and exporter of pork, but production could decline about 7 percent this year compared to last — the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

Between this and the lime shortage, Bloody Marys are hardest hit. You may have to cut your garnish down to just the two slices.

The disease is thought to have come from China, and large pork-producing states are suffering— Iowa and North Carolina chief among them. Perhaps Bruce Braley can say something mind-blowingly insensitive about pig farmers not knowing how to chair an appropriations committee properly or something during this tough time. Companies are working to create a vaccine, but nothing has been approved by the federal government.

As much as this is tough, particularly for those whose livelihoods depend upon it, it’s a wonderful thing to live in a country where a shortage of any food product is a national news story, not an everyday occurrence. As I said when faced with the Velveeta shortage of 2014:

Many will scoff and say the regular, near-perfect delivery of cheese is nothing, but it’s damn near miraculous, and a historical anomaly to be so well-supplied with cheese of all varieties that those who used to worry about a lack of cheese are now compelled to write laws limiting our cheese intake for us. One of capitalism’s greatest weaknesses is the invisible hand works so well its untold maneuvers are easy to take for granted. Until you’re sitting there, for the first time in your life, with a lonely can of Rotel.


In 2008, when there was another serious wave of food scarcity, most people blamed shop owners for hoarding food as a mechanism to exert pressure on the government’s price controls, a measure that former president Hugo Chávez adopted as part of his self-styled socialist revolution.

This time, however, food shortages have gone on for almost a year and certain items long gone from the shelves are hitting a particular nerve with Venezuelans. Toilet paper, rice, coffee, and cornflour, used to make arepas, Venezuela’s national dish, have become emblematic of more than just an economic crisis.

“We used to produce rice and we had excellent coffee; now we produce nothing. With the situation here people abandoned the fields,” says Jesús López, in reference to government-seized land that sits idle. “Empty shelves and no one to explain why a rich country has no food. It’s unacceptable,” adds the 90-year-old farmer from San Cristóbal, on the western state of Táchira, bordering Colombia.