High prices: When pigs fly

Hogs are raised on the farm of Gordon and Jeanine Lockie in Elma, Iowa.

Bacon was everywhere in 2013.

There was the Denny's "Baconalia!" menu, which featured pork in pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and even ice cream. Chicken-fried bacon made headlines in Texas and we heard about a bacon martini in Las Vegas.

And then there was the government shutdown, which left farmers without a way to calculate the price to set for each of their hogs.

"After the government got back to work and the prices started to get reported again we had a nice counter season rally on the pork market,"  says Brian Duncan, a hog farmer in Polo, Ill. "On the production side, the market's done what it usually does this time of year when the market has gone down. So this is a tough time seasonally for pork producers to make money."

Currently, bacon will run about $6 a pound, the highest the price has been since 1980.

"When you go buy bacon, that's a value-added product." Duncan says. "I would challenge you though to go look at the bargains in the meat case. Take a look at say ham which is also a value-added product but are dirt cheap right now."

Duncan says a 40-percent drop in corn and grain prices is one of the few bright spots currently offsetting hog prices.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
Log in to post9 Comments

I'm surprised that the price of pork would actually fluctuate that greatly. And although I condone the act of ill-treating pigs in order to farm meat, we really cannot deny that the world cannot go without that extra variety we get from the slaughter and sale of the meat.

The prices of bacon seem to go up suddenly in my local stores. I usually buy the thick cut variety even though it takes longer to cook.

Bacon really is delicious.

I applaud the previous comments under this hideous example of public "journalism".
I would like to see a true story on the actual conditions of animals subjected to horrific deaths in slaughterhouses.
Not like the story Oprah did in her last year on the air with her very popular show, but, rather, showing the truly horrific nature of all some humans choose to inflict on others, and all that the rest of us just cannot fathom, though 'we' vote for it with our choices and dollars.
Just HOW do "we" think that we will be spared when we will not spare anyone else??
For anyone who cares to look, the complete message is already clear, for everyone to see.

This is really sad. Pigs are sentient creatures who feel fear and pain. It sickens me to think what they are forced to endure. It is a modern day holocaust. Yes, it is. I don't care WHO gets offended over that statement, because this story deeply offends me. These animals are aware and have feelings just like you or me. How would you like to live that way? We will never know peace on this earth until we stop killing and eating other creatures. Humans are NOT the only creatures on this earth who can feel fear and pain. To me, you may as well be killing and eating the family house pet. Because the only difference is the level of attachment. Many people have pigs as pets. Choose compassion. Change the world. Go VEGAN!

I did not appreciate this story or the blasé commodification of pigs as "products, "bacon," or "ham." Pigs are not "value-added products." They are highly intelligent and sensitive animals whose suffering on factory farms and at slaughter plants is beyond anyone's worst nightmare. Pigs are sentient beings capable of joy, pleasure, and happiness when they are free to live and be themselves. However, they are also capable of pain, fear, boredom, frustration, suffering, and learned despair when they are intensively confined on factory farms. They do not deserve the callous treatment, body mutilations (without benefit of pain relief), or brutal killing they receive at a fraction of their natural lifespans on factory farms and industrialized slaughterhouses. It was painful to see the accompanying photo of pigs crowded together with their tails chopped off, living (if you can call it that) in squalor on slatted flooring atop their own waste, never to experience a single breath of fresh air, freedom to run, sunshine on their shoulders, or earth beneath their feet. It was painful to hear people laughing, joking, and referring to pig body parts, as if the animal never existed at all. People do not need to eat pigs or other animals to live and to thrive and, in fact, would be far healthier on plant-based diets. Let us hope that 2014 brings greater awareness to more and more people about the evils of factory farming and its devastating effects to animals, to humanity, and to our planet.

They're talking about pigs, not humans.

Marketplace producers: I ask you to consider the implications of two men, like Kai and the hog farmer here, discussing a product that necessitates the systematic rape and incarceration of females in cages, forced into perpetual cycles of pregnancy, to ensure they pump out babies who will be stolen, castrated, tails amputated, teeth cut out, ear-notched, fattened to market weight, then gassed, electrocuted, and/or shot point blank in the head, hung upside down by their legs and slashed across their throats, all in their youth. This is “listener-supported” radio which to me implies that I am somehow being represented in this kind of journalism, but all we're getting here is sexism, speciesism, denial, entitlement, priviledge, fetishizing flesh.

I agree. An independent and responsible journalist would produce a true story on the actual conditions of slaughterhouses and people who work there, like for example the Austrian documentary Workingman's Death. But this is America, a Potemkin Village writ large. Appearances and illusions are all that matters. People like happy fairy tales of self-regulating markets and the media, including public media, meet this demand. If they did not, they would lose their funding in no time. This is the reality of the marketplace or the tyranny of the majority as deTocqueville called it.

With Generous Support From...