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The Crisis We Should Be Panicking About: Bacon Prices

Friday, 1 Jul 2011 | 5:09 PM ET

The global debt crisis has sparked riots in Greeceand elsewhere in Europe, but while you were watching the mayhem on TV, you might not have noticed that there’s a riot brewing at your kitchen table.

Lisa Hubbard | FoodPix | Don Farrall | Photodisc | Getty Images

Bacon prices are expected to soar this summer — just in time for peak BLT (bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich) season. BLT season goes into full swing in July across much of the country as tomatoes start to ripen and, if you’re like Jason Perlow, who writes the “Off the Broiler” blog, by August, BLT’s will have become “major meals” instead of just a quick lunch.

But this year, just as the U.S. is worrying about its own debt crisis and a possible "double-dip" recession, the price of bacon —that sizzling, smoky comfort food we most need during tough times — is expected to surge. The price of pork bellies, which is where bacon comes from, jumped to more than $130 per hundredweight (100 pounds), and some analysts suggest it’s going to top last August’s level of $150.

“It’s going to be pretty tragic when you have your fresh ripe tomatoes and can’t have bacon for your BLT,” said Jason Mosley, author of the Mr. Bacon Pantsblog and co-star of the “Bacon Live” podcast.

The reason for surging bacon prices is that hog farmers have pared their herds due to high feed costs after corn prices hit a record near $8 a bushel last month. Retail bacon prices hit $4.77 a pound in May, according to the Labor Department, and Rich Nelson, director of research at Allendale, told Reuters that it could reach near $6 a pound in the next few months.

The bacon community is outraged.

“Everyone is kind of freaking out about it,” Mosley said, adding that some bacon lovers have already reported seeing bacon prices above $6 a pound — and that's for the generic, store-brand “cheap stuff.”

Still, bacon lovers aren’t to be deterred.

“I think they’ll make cutbacks other places — stop buying other things so they can afford bacon,” Mosley said. He personally said he’s willing to cut back on some fresh fruits and vegetables — things like bananas. “Get some good tomatoes and lettuce and forget the other stuff,” he said.

Some bacon mavens suggest it’s time to stock up for the coming crisis.

“Bacon lovers should take this as a warning that it’s time to head to the store and stock up. Tomatoes are beginning to ripen and prime BLT season is just around the corner,” said Heather Lauer, author of the book “Bacon: A Love Story” and the Bacon Unwrappedblog. “ As hog farmers do what is necessary to survive in challenging economic times, bacon consumers need to protect themselves as well,” she said.

Mosley also suggests using Bacon Saltto hold you over — it's a salt that adds bacon flavor to anything you sprinkle it on, though it isn't made of actual bacon.

As if the nation isn’t suffering enough, with high unemployment and gas prices still more than $3.50 a gallon, now we’re faced with a bacon crisis and the need to stockpile bacon.

America, it’s time to take this seriously. BLT season is fast approaching and we need to get this crisis under control.

With all the money the government has thrown at Wall Street and foreign countries that have spent themselves into crisis, it’s high time officials took this bacon crisis seriously.

Imagine a U.S. stockpile of oh, say, 700 or so million barrels of bacon that can be unleashed to the Walmarts and Whole Foods of America when the nation is in time of need.

How can this nation even try to maintain its status as super power of the world on lettuce and tomato sandwiches?

Mosley said he’s in favor of a Strategic Bacon Reserve.

“Why not? I think that we’re already facing a lot of tough decisions in America — why have bacon be one of them?” he said.

Well said, Mr. Baconpants. Well said.

More Stuff to Riot Over:

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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