Bacon has become the darling of popular chefs, fast-food restaurants and everything in between. In July 2017, Bloomberg reported that pork belly prices had increased 80% for the first half of the year, and that bacon prices, already high, were projected to continue to climb. And who can forget the “bacon scare” last winter, when the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported the January (2017) pork belly stocks were down 22% from the month prior and down 77% from the year prior.
Tight stocks of bellies, helped support prices throughout last year and it seemed the more bacon people bought, the more they wanted to keep buying it.
Ongoing demand has been a boon for the U.S. pork industry, and it’s no longer seasonal.
Approximately 80% of the top 500 restaurant chains in the U.S. offer at least one bacon item on the menu, Bloomberg reports.
“The cured meat has become so pervasive that a ‘bacon critic’ position was created at the breakfast-oriented website, Extra Crispy; five-day bacon camps are put on by Zingerman’s Deli in Michigan; and completely gratuitous bacon dishes like “fully loaded guacamole” with a crumbled bacon garnish, are pushed out,” says Bloomberg.
Bacon t-shirts, bacon snacks, chocolate covered bacon for Valentine’s Day – you name it, whatever the food, there’s likely a bacon-flavored version.
A Celebration of Bacon
Giving bacon its full due are the bacon festivals that have sprouted up around the country. One of the oldest and most publicized is the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival.
On Saturday, Feb. 17, this 11th annual event will be all the rage in Des Moines, at the Iowa Events Center. This year’s theme is “International Bacon Games - Light the Sizzle Within!” which pays homage to the Olympics taking place in South Korea during the same time.
Tickets for the festival and after-party concert (featuring Grammy-nominated group, Smash Mouth), are still available at variety of prices, depending on the depth of the bacon experience you desire.
Brooks Reynolds, Chair of the Iowa Bacon Board (AKA Face of Bacon), explained the theme choice on the festival’s website: “We’ve wanted to use the ‘International Bacon Games’ theme for years, and the timing seemed ideal.
“Bacon-lovers will be encouraged to wear costumes representing real or fictional nations and athletes, enjoy bacon-inspired dishes from around the globe, and compete in a variety of bacon-themed games,” Reynolds said.
The Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival has become a destination for foodies. Organized and promoted by the Iowa Bacon Board, the festival offers “food, fun, and most importantly international bacon fellowship,” organizers say. “Bacon-enthusiasts from around the world gather for one day of extensive bacon sampling, bacon lectures, bacon-inspired dishes, bacon competitions, an annual bacon queen contest, bacon awards, live entertainment and more.”
If you’ve never been to Des Moines, Iowa, this might be a good time to go!