SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Today is National Bacon Day. Why dedicate a day to bacon?
Maybe because so many people eat it?
Statista used information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Simmons National Consumer Survey to calculate that 268.04 million Americans consumed bacon in 2020. This figure is projected to increase to 275.72 million in 2024. And 16.39 million Americans consumed five or more pounds of bacon in 2020.
Americans eat about 51 pounds of pork each year, according to several sources. Some have calculated the consumption at even 60 to 70 pounds each year.
Bacon is popular enough that even the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) is stressing that today is National Bacon Day.
Renner Corner Meats makes bacon for retail sales, a local bar and for wholesale customers, said Jon Siemonsma. The business makes what could be called regular, traditional bacon but it also makes flavored bacon such as cinnamon and raspberry chipoltle.
“It’s fairly popular because we have nothing left on the shelf today (Dec. 30),” Siemonsma said. “We are out of both.”
Bacon’s been around for thousands of years, according to multiple websites that tout the history and goodness of bacon. It’s a salted meat, and salt has long been used to preserve and cure meat.
Siemonsma said he likes his bacon made “all ways.” “Some people like it crisp, others like it not crisp. It’s all personal preference,” he said.
One of the reasons bacon may sizzle in the frying pan is the fat. Bacon can be made from the belly or back or sides but all potential bacon has some fat.
Siemonsma makes his bacon “from the belly.”
Some of the bacon eaten in America is made in produced through hogs raised in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota and other Midwestern states.
As of Dec. 1, there were 2.1 million hogs and pigs in South Dakota, according to the USDA. There were there were 8.9 million hogs and pigs in Minnesota. There were 23.8 million hogs and pigs in Iowa. Nebraska had 3.6 million hogs and pigs.
In 2020, Iowa raised the most pigs in the U.S., according to the Iowa Pork Industry.
The production of hogs has changed over the past 70 years. Prices including increased costs as well as a change in consumer and processor demands helped to reshape the industry.
Hogs were typically raised on small farms, for example, from the 1940s on.
But the shift toward larger barns and herds began in a fast pace in the early 1990s. Producers began raising hogs under contract to pork processing plants.
More hogs are now raised in operations that specialize in a single phase than in the farrow-to-finish operations, according to the USDA.
Farmers once raised pigs from farrow (or birth or just after birth) to finish which meant they raised young pigs through their growth to sale for processing. Those are called farrow-to-finish operations.
Now, a producer may choose to raise hogs only in the finish stages or another stage of growth.
In 1995, there were 5,400 farms in South Dakota raising hogs. By 2000 that number dropped to 1,900 farms, according to a March 2001 economics paper “South Dakota’s Hog Market: Developments and Prospects” by Matthew Diersen for South Dakota State University.
The share of market hogs grown under a production contract increased from 5% in 1992 to over 70% 2009, according to the USDA.
In December of this year, the total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with over 5,000 head, but raised by contractees, accounted for 47% of the total U.S. hog inventory, down 1% from the previous year.
Pork companies have long had an influence on the bacon market and a strong presence in the region dating back to Morell in Sioux Falls.
Commercial bacon was expensive for many years until the 1950s but pork companies had advertised bacon as a flavorful addition to any meal. By the 1950s, they had figured out how to cure and slice the product efficiently and sell it in new plastic vacuum packages that greatly extended the shelf life of the meat, according to Wessels Living History Farms of York, Nebraska.
Smithfield announced in 2018 it would be renovating its high speed bacon line as part of a $45 million investment.
Media reported in November of 2020 that Smithfield planned a $1.3 expansion to its bacon plant in Sioux Center. Sioux Center is in Sioux County, Iowa, one of the top pork producing counties in the top pork producing state.
JBS has a pork processing plant in Worthington, Minnesota.
Wholestone Foods, a producer-owned company, will build a $500 million pork processing facility in Sioux Falls in the southeast corner of I-229 and Benson Road.
But the COVID-19 pandemic which caused several processing plants including Smithfield and JBS to temporarily close because of outbreaks, also illustrated the role local smaller meat lockers have.
Meat lockers in South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana and Montana, reported increased demand during COVID-19.
Lockers such as Renner help meet the need.