Over the last two weeks I have had several friends ask me why pork is going to be more expensive "because pigs are fatter." I was puzzled myself, as a producer and a consumer.
After a bit of research I learned that once again, it comes down to choice of words. Pigs are not "too fat," they are just being sold at heavier weights. That means certain cuts of pork weigh more, therefore costing more.
The article sparking questions was from Bloomberg News reporter Lydia Mulvany: "American pigs are too fat for holiday ham."
In my opinion, the title was the problem. People skim articles, but always read the title.
The article actually explains why hams are more expensive this year. It's very well-explained and has nothing to do with fat, but everything to do with the weight of the hog.
"Hogs in the U.S. weigh the most ever after farmers fed them longer to make up for losses caused by a virus that killed millions of piglets. While heavier hogs mean more pork per animal, their hind legs exceed the size used for producing the 7-pound spiral-cut, half hams that are the most popular for family meals during year-end holidays," Mulvany writes.
This time of year, a spiral-cut ham is a must on a lot of holiday tables. Typically, a desired a whole ham weighs 17-20 pounds and is cut in half to be sold.
The article says that with five million fewer hogs slaughtered in the past year, there are fewer hind legs to use for these holiday hams. While the number of desired-weight hams is down, there are more 23-27 pound hams on the market. Even when sold as half-hams, consumers consider these larger hams too big (not fat), for their holiday table.
Careful word selection is important. "Fat" is not a word consumers want to associate with their food, and they don't like the thought of paying more for it.
"We've spent the last 30 years working to reduce the fat in hogs in order to produce a healthy lean meat for consumers," says Jim Smith, swine nutritionist with Kent Feeds. "Pigs are heavier than last year but that doesn't mean they contain more fat."
The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.