BLT sandwiches and pork ribs more expensive this summer

A butcher makes a stack of slices of bacon at an annual public fair in the village of Sakule, north of the Serbian capital Belgrade.

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KAI RYSSDAL:Producers of the "Other White Meat" have had it hard. First, there was that virus called "Swine Flu." Not good. Then sky high prices for corn and soybeans, the things that pigs eat. But this is the season of the "BLT Bump." Pork prices trend higher in the summertime, especially this summer. Cash pork prices rose to a three-month high last week and hog futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange pulled higher today in response.

Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: If your bacon costs more than it used to, you can blame it, in part, on a summer sandwich staple.

Chris Hurt: Many consumers like a little bit lighter fare, like a BLT sandwich, and that does help the demand and help support prices in the summertime.

That's Purdue University Ag Professor Chris Hurt. He says this summer's bacon price bump is even higher than usual. Farmers culled their swine herds after a disastrous few years when hog feed and corn prices skyrocketed. The reduced supply eventually caught up and raised prices at the supermarket. Bacon's now about 12 cents higher on average than it was last year.

And commodities are connected: The extreme heat and drought in Russia right now sent grain futures on a tear today. Wheat was up more than 40 cents a bushel. Professor Hurt says that'll affect global meat prices for months to come.

Hurt: We're going to continue to see those high retail prices -- grocery store and restaurants -- for beef as well as pork continuing on through 2010 and most of 2011.

Many economists think of meat as interchangeable -- if pork chops become too expensive, well, we'll just eat the sirloin or roast chicken. But in lots of trendy cafes, bacon has become ubiquitous. North Carolina chef Chris Stinnett owns French bistro Rue Cler in Durham.

Chris Stinnett: We cure the bellies. We make our own bacon with the bellies. We confit 'em. We braise 'em.

Chef Stinnett will cut back on the bread. But give up bacon? Maybe when pigs fly.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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