Bacon lovers, prepare to tighten your belts. According to Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, the U.S. could experience shortages of ham and pork bellies as early as 2020 (h/t Bloomberg).
The shortage is due to an epidemic of African Swine Flu, which is rampaging through China’s pork industry. It’s so severe that NPR estimates that by the end of 2019, China’s pig population could be cut in half. Since China currently cultivates roughly half of the pork in the world, the outbreak will have some serious ripple effects on global pork consumption — ones that we will feel in the U.S. in the form of rising prices in the pork section of the grocery store.
That’s bad news for people who loves their bacon, ham, and pork chops. But it could be very good news for the growing number of companies producing plant-based pork products, especially bacon.
Several companies are developing their own alternative versions of the popular breakfast meat, or making technology to help others do so. Startups Hooray Foods and Prime Roots are both in the (very) early stages of commercializing their alt-bacon, and there have been murmurs that Beyond Meat is adding bacon to its product roadmap. Ecovative makes mushroom root scaffolds for meat alternatives, which it has successfully tested to create vegan bacon. Even Big Food is getting in on it: just last week, Nestlé announced it had developed its own version of animal-free bacon to complement its plant-based Awesome burger.
When it comes to other pork products, however, there are fewer options. Beyond makes a plant-based sausage, and there are products peddling jackfruit as an alternative to pulled pork. Right Treat in Hong Kong sells Omnipork, an alternative to ground pork geared towards Asian palates. However, we could start seeing new players creating a variety of plant-based pork products if China’s shortage continues.
According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world. That means that there’s not only a huge opportunity for companies to develop pork alternatives, but also a pressing need for them to do so if outbreaks like the one in China continue.
Bacon seems a tasty place to start.