Trying to imagine a world without bacon is like trying to conjure up an existence where flowers are extinct, clouds are hidden by floating billboards for "Honey Boo Boo," and laughter is forbidden. Which is to say, it's possible with enough mental power and perhaps the assistance of a Morrissey record playing in the background. But is it really worth the cerebral energy to fantasize about such a terrible, awful, unlivable, grotesque place?
And yet this week, when headlines started blaring across the blogosphere about our "unavoidable" and "looming" global shortage of bacon, that's what we were forced to do. Gone: Extravagant brunches layered with sizzling pork slabs. Gone: Football Sundays at your buddies house, where the main goal -- even more than paying attention to the actual game -- is trying to consume as much bacon as possible. Gone: The unofficial "official" hot dog of Los Angeles, the delightful bacon-wrapped variety.
Dear God, no more bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
That's the world that's on the horizon, according to this much re-blogged press release by the National Pig Association. Their rationale for the shortage is that "pig farmers have been plunged into loss by high pig-feed costs, caused by the global failure of maize and soya harvests." In short: Higher corn costs, means pig farmers having to spend more to feed to their pigs, means farmers having to cull their pig herd to make up for the cost, means less pigs, means a shortage of bacon, means what's-the-point-of-even-living-anymore?
However, there's a certain skepticism that must accompany press releases put out by single-issue associations, and this one's no different. Could it be that the National Pig Association is just dipping its hooves in a bit of the fear-mongering and panic-inducing tactics that are all too common during this election cycle? Matthew Yglesias at Slate says yes:
Are we headed for a dystopian future of food lines and bacon rationing? Not really. But you probably will have to pay more.
Such an increase will, of course, be unpleasant for households used to buying as much cheap bacon as their hearts desire, but there shouldn't be any actual shortages precisely because prices will rise. Shortages arise when price controls lead to a situation in which consumers want to buy more of something than actually exists, which can lead to government rationing. In our economy there will still be plenty of bacon on the shelves, just priced high enough to deter some people from eating as much of it as usual.
In other words, you may not be able to head over to Ralph's and throw down two bucks for a pound of bacon anymore, or waltz into whatever fast food chain is offering 18 strips of bacon on their burger for, like, $1.99. People will have to pay a little more for their delicious salted pork. But it'll still be available, for the right price, if you want it on your burgers, during your football Sundays or wrapped around your street meat.
But, you know what? This upcoming price hike might actually be a good thing. This bacon-devouring culture we've morphed into over the past half-decade, one where nearly every restaurant ad is simply a company touting how much extra bacon they're putting on their menu items, is getting kind of gross. In fact, the ease with which it can be attained maybe has us taking bacon for granted. Why praise the pig when you can get the bacon for free? (Or something like that.) Maybe this bacon scare, and the upcoming price-hike, is just what we as a society need in order to see, once again, how beautiful bacon truly is.
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