MONEY groceries

National High-Price Bacon Nightmare Is Over

150127_EM_Bacon
Ray Lego—Getty Images

Bacon lovers, rejoice. The heartbreaking, seemingly endless rise of pork prices appears to have subsided.

After hitting record highs over the summer, bacon prices have come down to earth—and even cheaper prices are on the way.

The retail price of bacon hit an all-time high during the summer of 2014, but has since retreated, dropping 5.7% by early December, according to Bloomberg News. What’s more, all signs indicated at the time that prices for pork, ham, and bacon would keep on decreasing. “Hogs and pork are almost surely going to be cheaper, particularly compared to beef, next year,” Doane Advisory Services economist Dan Vaught said.

Sure enough, pork prices are plunging in early 2015. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that farmers have rebounded from a virus that decimated pig herds in 2013 and early 2014, and that the nation is riding high on the hog in terms of a record number of pigs approaching slaughter weight. Forecasts call for an all-time high of 23.9 billion pounds of pork to be produced in the U.S. in 2015.

“It’s amazing. We’ve gone from ‘We’re going to run out of pork!’ to ‘What are we going to do with all of this meat?’” John Nalivka, president of the Oregon-based agriculture-advisory firm Sterling Marketing Inc., told the Journal.

Well, one thing they’re clearly going to do is cut prices. Hogs are currently trading at four-year lows on the futures market. Supermarkets are paying less for pork wholesale, and they have begun passing along the savings in the form of cheaper ham, pork loins, and yes, bacon. Last summer, the average retail price for a pound of bacon was over $6 per pound. By December 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a pound of bacon was averaging $5.53 in U.S. grocery stores, and $5.10 in the Midwest.

The funny thing about bacon is that people love it so much that demand stays incredibly high even when prices rise, and the masses are prone to panic with the slightest hint of bacon being in short supply. And when bacon prices become cheaper, that’s a justification for some bacon lovers to take their bacon consumption to the next level. Businesses that profit on bacon-aholics will surely be more than happy to help. Look for more bacon to be incorporated into restaurant menus and on sale at supermarkets in the months ahead.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Micropayments and digital currencies will ignite an explosion of disruptive innovation.

By Walter Isaacson in LinkedIn

2. Latin America is taking the lead with progressive food policies — and putting public health above the interests of the food industry.

By Andy Bellatti in Civil Eats

3. To preserve biodiversity and lift up communities facing hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, indigenous plants might provide a solution.

By Amy Maxmen in Newsweek

4. Teacher preparation programs seek change with a pinpoint innovation approach. It’s time for a broad scale transformation of teaching.

By Kaylan Connally in EdCentral

5. Making clean plastics from biofuel waste could free up valuable farmland for food crops.

By Matt Safford in Smithsonian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 8

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A new crowdfunded software tool for reporting sexual assault can reduce stigma and protect survivors.

By Shafaq Hasan in Nonprofit Quarterly

2. Millions of discarded laptop batteries could light homes in the developing world.

By David Talbot in the MIT Technology Review

3. A long overdue transparency plan for clinical trials will finally open results to the medical community and the public.

By Julia Belluz in Vox

4. Without role models or a road map through the upper ranks, women are leaving the tech industry at the mid-career point in droves.

By Sue Gardner in the Los Angeles Times

5. A new plan to drop strips of prairie into cropland helps preserve soil and battle climate change.

By Dylan Roth in Iowa State Daily

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 15

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Americans are often oblivious to the role of farming in their lives. To get the smart policies needed to feed our nation and the world, we must reconnect people to agriculture.

By Ian Pigott in the Des Moines Register

2. Even employer-paid health insurance can worsen poverty and increase inequality.

By David Blumenthal in Commonwealth Fund

3. Is “feminist marketing” an oxymoron?

By Chandra Johnson in the Deseret News

4. Helsinki has a plan cities everywhere could try: Combine the sharing economy, transit and mobile technology to eliminate cars.

By Randy Rieland in Smithsonian

5. America’s best bet in Africa is a strong relationship with Nigeria.

By Daniel Donovan in Foreign Policy Blogs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Agriculture

Apple Harvest Is Rotten This Year for Much of U.S.

While the temperatures of this month are bringing us the colors and the crispness of fall, the weather of past months ruined much of the nation’s apple harvest.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 12

1. The long shadow of September 11th haunts our modern defense policy as well as our plan of attack against ISIS.

By Janine Davidson at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Far from “The End of History:” Recent experience shows that democracy’s defenders have their work cut out for them. We should start by linking democratic values to our humanity.

By Timothy Stanley and Alexander Lee in the Atlantic

3. Climate change could remake agriculture. The world should diversify its crops.

By Sayed Azam-Ali in The Conversation

4. To transition from warfighting to the working world, America’s veterans need support from a broad range of government agencies. And that’s actually happening.

By Charles S. Clark in Government Executive

5. The Apple Watch will make people and computers more intimate.

By Walter Isaacson in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Environment

Japanese Farmers Just Got a New Pesticide: The Flightless Ladybug

Ancient Silk Town Paves Way For Japans Abandoned Rice Fields
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A rice farmer works in a paddy field in Yabu City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, on Wednesday, June 25, 2014.

Ladybugs can do the work that nasty chemicals used to

Researchers in Japan have discovered a way to selectively breed flightless ladybugs to be used as a “biopesticide” — a natural alternative to chemical pesticides.

Ladybugs have long been considered natural pest-control for gardens and crops, but their ability to fly away encouraged many agriculturalists to instead rely on chemical pesticides that are harmful to the environment. After several generations of being exposed to chemicals, many pests have also been known to develop pesticide resistance.

In an effort to create a practical biopesticide, Tomokazu Seko, a researcher from the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Fukuyama, Japan, conducted research on 400 ladybugs from the Harmonia axyridis species. After selective breeding over 30 generations, he was finally able to develop a non-flying ladybug.

A company in Ibaraki Prefecture has started selling the flightless ladybug as a biopesticide for indoor use. According to a statement from the Biopesticide Industry Alliance, the ladybug has already reduced over 90% of the pest-damage to Japanese mustard spinach.

“The best part is that you can see the ladybugs working with your own eyes,” Seko told the Japan News.

[Japan News]

TIME Food & Drink

This Magical Tree Grows 40 Different Types of Fruit

Sam Van Aken, Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art

Using an ancient grafting technique, Sam Van Aken's Tree of 40 Fruit can bear dozens of stone fruit varieties

Add this to your truth-is-stranger-than-fiction file: an art professor in upstate New York is modifying plum trees so that each can bear not just one, but up to 40 varieties of stone fruit.

In what feels like the backdrop for a children’s tale — move over James and the Giant Peach; this is the real Giving Tree Sam Van Aken of Syracuse University has developed a years-long technique that involves grafting buds from various antique, heirloom and native fruit trees onto the branches of a base tree to create one-of-a-kind hybrids. As he explained in a recent TEDx Manhattan talk, “I take a sliver off one of the trees that includes the bud, I insert it into a like-size incision in the working tree, tape it, let it sit and heal in all winter, then I prune it back and hope that it grows.” The result: a single tree that bears 40 varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries.

Sam Van Aken

“It started as an art project. I wanted people to have this experience where a tree is blossoming in all these different colors or growing all these different kinds of fruit all at once,” Van Aken told TIME. As he began researching the various stone fruits available, however, he learned that there were literally hundreds that aren’t in stores because of their size, color or short shelf life. That led to the project evolving into a conservation effort for hard-to-find varieties. Among his favorite: Greengage plums, which came to the U.S. from France and look like Granny Smith apples.

Van Aken plans to use proceeds from the trees, which he sells for around $30,000 each, to create an orchard that will serve as an archive of native an antique stone varieties. He’s also growing a small grove of the trees in Portland, Maine, where the trees — and their abundant harvests — will be available to the public. Since it takes nine years to graft branches from 40 different fruit trees onto each base tree, chances are Van Aken’s creations won’t end world hunger. But they might get you to think twice about the fruit you eat next time to you bite into a peach.

TIME Agriculture

Here’s Why You’re Paying More for Chicken

Cockerel, UK
Universal Images Group—UIG via Getty Images

Modified genes in a key rooster breed has reduced the birds’ fertility

Chicken prices in the United States are reportedly on the rise after a genetic defect caused rooster fertility problems at a time when high prices on other meats were already increasing demand for poultry products.

The standard Ross male, a key rooster breed responsible for fathering up to 25 percent of the chickens raised for slaughter in the U.S., has seen reduced fertility due to a change in its genes, Reuters reports. Poultry producers routinely modify chicken genes to improve yield. As a result, the price of chicken breasts is up about 50 cents per pound and prices in Georgia, a key chicken market, have hit record highs.

Aviagen Group, the world’s largest chicken breeder, discovered the glitch after ruling out other possible explanations for a roughly 2% increase in hatch failure of eggs fertilized by the breed, Reuters reports. Scientists from the company say the genetic tweak made the roosters “very sensitive” to overfeeding.

“We fed him too much. He got fat. When he got big, he did not breed as much as he was intended to,” said Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer for the major chicken producer Sanderson, one of Aviagen’s biggest customers.

The chicken shortage resulting from reduced rooster fertility comes at a time when elevated prices for pork and beef have been increasing demand for chicken as a meat alternative.

[Reuters]

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