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Bacon prices surge to highest levels in 40 years

The owner of Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Madisonville said smaller producers are feeling the price squeeze alongside consumers.

MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — People are having to fork over more of the hard-earned "bacon" they bring home these days just to pay for... well, bacon.

Pork prices are through the roof right now -- at their highest prices in nearly 40 years after adjusting for inflation. Since December 2020, a White House report shows pork has seen its food at home prices rise by 12.1%. Analysts believe part of that is due to steady consumer demand on top of the bottleneck in the meat-processing side of the supply chain. 

The supply chain issues and continued labor shortages are putting the squeeze on consumers and smaller producers in the chain, in particular. Allan Benton, the owner of Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Madisonville, said the rise in prices is at least helping some producers who felt the squeeze last year.

"The farmers are definitely getting relief, and it was well needed, but the labor shortage coupled with the high pork prices really did a double blow for producers like me," he said.

If you remember back to May 2020 during the earliest days of the pandemic, COVID-19 spread rapidly through many of the large meatpacking plants -- forcing those plants to temporarily shut down. This left farmers with a large surplus of animals they couldn't send to slaughter, which they said forced them to euthanize millions of pigs that were unable to be processed for food.

The impact from those disruptions are still being felt in the supply chain, analysts said, after farmers scaled back herd sizes as demand remained steady. 

Benton said there is some hope -- saying they are starting to see prices slowly come down, and are hoping it could return to something more normal by 2022.

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