The Real Reason No One Is Buying Bacon Right Now

Recent headlines tell of empty grocery shelves and upcharges on common household goods such as toilet paper as a result of panic-buying during the COVID-19 outbreak. This effect has made its way to breakfast staples. With Americans self-isolating themselves at home, their habit of eating on the go has gone out the window. Instead, they're opting for sit-down meals in the morning, and that has caused the prices of eggs and orange juice to soar. 

According to Marketplace, the wholesale price of Midwest large eggs has tripled since early March, spiking to an all-time high of over $3 per dozen last week. Orange juice is also reportedly in high demand, with the future price of the beverage, which indicates its cost for delivery in the months to come, jumping up by more than 20 percent this month (via Yahoo! News).

Despite the booming popularity of breakfast commodities, however, bacon has been left out in the dust. Bloomberg reported that based on numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of pork bellies has fallen to about 41 cents per pound — the lowest since 1999 — from 93 cents just two weeks ago.

The real reason why bacon is not in high demand

Lackluster bacon sales have less to do with the effects that the coronavirus-related lockdowns have had on consumers' shopping habits and more to do with how the way Americans consume that cut of meat has changed over the years. Bob Brown, an independent market consultant in Edmond, Okla., said to Bloomberg, "Over time, the share of bacon that moves through the retail channel has shrunk. We prefer to order bacon on our hamburgers or biscuits from the drive-through rather than take home a pound of bacon from the grocery."

So, even prior to the recent outbreaks, Americans preferred consuming bacon in the restaurant setting rather than at home. This shift in tendency meant bacon was more likely to be found on restaurant menus than in a typical American refrigerator (via The Takeout). Thus, as many restaurants have been forced to shutter their doors recently, bacon sales have dropped. The Takeout detailed the factors behind this decline, saying that the sudden plummet in pork belly prices isn't technically about everyone giving up bacon, but more to do with restaurants closing around the country, which cuts into bulk food orders.

An upside of the low price of bacon is that grocery stores could soon begin offering sales on the now-cheap pork belly cut, according to Bloomberg. Maybe this means we'll start seeing creative quarantine recipes featuring bacon soon.