By Megan Durisin and Yunita Ong
More than half the meat budget at the barbecue restaurant Gabe Garza runs in Chicago normally goes to pork. This year, he’s buying even more.
With pork production in the U.S. heading for an all-time high, wholesale prices have fallen about 40 percent since last July. As a result, Garza’s Chicago Q restaurant will buy 113,550 pounds (51.5 metric tons) in 2015, 14 percent more than last year. A half-dozen new items are also on the menu, including pork-belly corn dogs and pulled-pork macaroni and cheese.
“Before, we would use bacon sparingly,” said Garza, 43, who is president of Ideology Entertainment, which runs Chicago Q along with two other eateries and a cigar bar in the city. “Now, we’re playing bacon with different seasonings and toppings. We absolutely started experimenting and playing, and the chefs really had fun.”
A jump in the hog herd and slower export growth are boosting supplies in the U.S., the largest producer after China. The government expects pork prices to drop more than any other food group this year. Wholesale pork was 84.86 cents a pound on July 27, compared with a record $1.3756 in July 2014, government data show.
At the same time, the price of beef has surged as a decline in the U.S. cattle herd pushes consumers to increasingly seek that meat from places like Australia. Retail beef priceswill jump 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent this year, the most of any food group, the USDA said.
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