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Bacon price spike linked to swine stomach bug

Published On: Apr 08 2014 10:04:18 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2014 12:48:05 PM CDT
Bacon in pan

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MADISON, Wis. -

It’s a restaurant named for dumplings and known for burgers.

However, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry kitchen manager Benny Roe has a no-fail philosophy for his cooks.

“Everything's good with bacon,” Roe said.

And Roe lives it. Most of the burgers are already topped with bacon, and if they’re not, they have the option to add slices.

However, putting bacon on nearly everything on the menu has a price, and that price is rising.

“Over the last couple of months, we've seen upwards of 20 percent increases on bacon and all pork products with that virus, and it's really difficult with prices right now,” Roe said.

That virus is Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, and the disease has killed millions of young pigs across the country.

Roe said the restaurant now shells out $9 to $10 a pound for its high-quality bacon, which has forced cooks to cut back on bacon on certain dishes and forced Roe to raise the price of meals.

“We order bacon two times a week,” Roe said. “So we're seeing hundreds, even thousands of dollars that we're losing because of the pork market right now.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13 percent more than a year ago.

State veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw works with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. McGraw said PED is a sort of stomach virus that was just introduced to the swine supply in this country last May.

McGraw said Wisconsin has only had six farms test positive for PED, but since it has been in the U.S. for less than a year, it is tough to track.

“We had a lot to learn, and the learning curve was steep,” McGraw said. “We worked a lot with the USDA, with the National Pork Board, with the Wisconsin Pork Association. There's been a lot of research done on this virus already. It's existed in Europe and China for decades, so it's not new to the world. We just hadn't seen it in this country.”

McGraw said there is no vaccine or treatment for PED, and it can kill a vast majority of baby pigs if an outbreak occurs in a nursery establishment.

He added DATCP has been working with state and federal agencies to research the disease and educate farmers and others of how to prevent its spread.

“Yes, we are seeing more this year because the virus has the tendency to be spread and survives better in cold, wetter climates. So through the winter, that's when it tends to spread a lot more,” McGraw said.

Roe said he’s hopeful things will turn around and his beloved bacon will become more affordable again.

“We're going to wait here the next couple of months and see if they can get their stock back up,” Roe said. “But it's tough, it's just kind of blindsided the whole market right now.”

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