Bringing home the bacon: Metchosin farmer plans ahead

West Shore residents won't be short-changed despite predicted pork shortage

Charla Huber/News staff Metchosin farmer Tom Henry bought 40 tonnes of oats from a Saanich farmer to feed his hogs. He is sharing the oats with another farmer to help get them through the rising grain prices.

Sizzling, salty, delicious bacon isn’t going anywhere.

Media stories are whirling about a global bacon shortage, and pork in general. But for Metchosin hog farmer Tom Henry it’s business as usual.

The anticipated pork shortage stems from a drought affecting grain production in the U.S. With a lack of grains, animal feed prices are on the rise. Hog farmers across Canada, the United States and Europe (the three largest pork producers) are selling their animals because it’s getting too expensive to raise them.

“Shortage isn’t the right word, there’s still going to be lots of pork, it’ll just be more expensive,” Henry explains.

Even though the meat prices are anticipated to rise, Henry suggests the price of pork will first go down, before the price hikes.

“It’s all about supply and demand, farmers will be selling off a lot of their stock and prices will go down. Farmers with 200,000 hogs will start to sell off half the herd and there will be a glut of pork on the market,” Henry said. “The farmers that hang in there (and keep their herds) can do well when the price goes back up.”

Gary Stody, of the Canadian Pork Council, has been sitting next to a steadily ringing phone about this expected pork shortage.

“I’ve learned you don’t want to get in front of people’s bacon,” Stody said.

With the grain prices rising Stody explained hog farmers are facing an increase of $30 per hog for feed.

Canada is in a better place than the U.S. and Europe, Stody said, explaining Canada is “self-sustainable” in the pork industry.

The CPC anticipates the price of pork rising in about five or six months.

While drought has played a major role in the recent grain price increases, Royal Roads University associate professor Charles Krusekopf says there are more factors at play.

“Turning corn into fuel has taken a portion of the crop to be turned into fuel products instead of food products,” Krusekopf said, explaining the grains are sold for more money as fuel than food, increasing its worth.

While grain prices are expected to continue rising, Krusekopf said hog farmers with contracts in place guaranteeing grains at a fixed rate will be able to produce the meat without experiencing the same financial strains.

To combat the anticipated rise in feed prices, Henry partnered with fellow farmer John Buchanan and purchased a field of oats from a Saanich farmer. The two brought in a combine and harvested the grains to feed their animals. They reaped 40 tonnes of oats, currently drying in a Metchosin barn.

“I knew grain prices were going up and I want something sustainable,” Henry said. “This brings home how vulnerable we are to the weather changes. We had no drought and excellent crops this year, but we’ll all be paying more for food.”

Purchasing local grains is saving both farmers money on feed for their animals, but also may help with selling the product. Local meat fed local grains can be a great marketing point, Henry said.

 

When it comes to bacon, he said, the cut of meat makes up about nine per cent of the animals. A 200 pound hog will produce about 18 pounds of Metchosin bacon.