Announcing the cancellation of this year’s bacon eating contest, Major League Eating (“the world body that governs all stomach-centric sports’) said, “We cannot, in good conscience, allow [top ranked eater] Joey Chestnut to eat bacon during a global pork shortage,…We estimate that Joey alone could eat 20 pounds of bacon in 10 minutes of competition.”
Where is the pork shortage?
First stop, the US:
- Skyrocketing corn prices make feeding pigs so expensive that farmers are killing their livestock. Actually, we have a pork glut now–up 31% between last August and this August according to the USDA. But less livestock will probably create a shortage during 2013.
Next, the European Union:
- Britain’s National Pig Association (NPA) reports steep declines in Poland’s, Sweden’s, and Ireland’s pig population. Compounding the problem, in the UK, the NPA says sow herd size will probably drop by 20%.
And finally, China:
- With global pork prices ascending, will China need even more inventory for its Strategic Pork Reserve (SPR)? Created during 2007 after porcine blue ear disease diminished the Chinese pig population, the SPR continues to stock hundreds of millions of pounds of frozen pork that are ready for release when prices spike. (But, according to the NY Times, frozen pork only lasts 4 months so maintaining the supply is more complicated than just keeping frozen meat.)
This returns us to the bacon eating contest cancellations. With pork so pricey, pancake contests are getting more publicity. Here, an economist would point out the unintended consequences. Who would have thought that a congressional ethanol mandate could have pushed corn prices upward, the pig population downward, and led to more pancakes???
Sources and Resources: My information on pig populations came from a Foreign Policy blog, a Washington Post blog, this Huffington Post article, and on China’s SPR, here. To describe Major League Eating, I used their publicity.