Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the Future of Bacon

Vincent was right: bacon tastes goood. But the market for frozen pork bellies futures has been dwindling. As of July 15 frozen pork belly options and futures are no longer traded at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where they had been trading since 1961.* Anyone left holding a pork belly contract surely ain't gonna have no money to buy their son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip.**

BTW, the totally awesome drawing here is by Alyson Thomas. I just love her butchery diagrams.

Futures, as explained by Motley Fool, are agreements between two parties to buy or sell a certain amount of a specified item for a specified price at a specific date. Don't ask me to explain options. It cannot be done!

Various news sources (NYT, WSJ and NPR) say that the market for bellies was historically strong in anticipation of summer sales when folks wanted to eat BLTs. That one sandwich was responsible for the rise and fall of the Duke brothers' (and others') fortune is ludicrous. Those sources say that year-round demand for bacon has caused the demand for frozen bellies to dry up. This is partly true. The full story of the death of the contract involves changes in the industry and how the contract failed to adapt accordingly. (Click here for Jeff Carter's explanation.)

What I don't understand is why the the contract didn't change. I get why the market for frozen bellies is down but why not allow for futures trades on fresh bellies? The fall of the contract comes at a time when you can't eat out without seeing pork belly on the menu. The belly garnered a noisy, intellectual, well-heeled fan base, similar to that of other humble foods such as the donut, BBQ, tacos, ice cream. Each are being produced by careful craftspeople and being consumed, discussed and venerated.

The "bacon tastes goood" statement voiced a truth that carnivores everywhere held but were too wrapped up in their cholesterol levels to celebrate. Once stated, the market - led in part by the Charlie Trotters and Alice Waters of our nation's restaurants - started giving us more of what we liked. Slow roasted! Glazed! Braised! God forbid frozen! From his chaise in the Caribbean, Billy Ray Valentine is making a killing on freezer space futures. Looking good, Billy Ray!

So what's the future of bacon? I couldn't tell you. But I can elaborate on the asterisked items above:

* A frozen pork belly futures contract consisted of 40,000 pounds of frozen pork bellies, cut and trimmed, where 1 point = $.0001 per pound ($4.00)

** That's from Trading Places. You can't talk pork bellies without letting Billy Ray Valentine doing some of the talking.

1 comment:

Kristine said...

Wow! You almost lost me on that one! You are brilliant in the kitchen AND in the board room! A foodie on Wall Street - maybe just what they need and YOUR new career! Pays for all the remodeling! SO how about a bacon recipe to satiate all the salivating taste buds? I have seen quite a few for a BLT salad and many variations of it - roasted tomatoes, sundried tomato vinaigrettes, panzanella style with arugula, fresh heirlooms and crumbled bacon in it. All looking quite yummy even for a non bacon eater!