By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com
Gas prices may still be uncomfortably close to $4 but great news, bacon lovers - just in time for the summer BLT season, bacon prices have fallen back down to earth in the U.S.!
They go whole hog at the Sage General Store in Long Island City, NY. If you recall, last summer, we were approaching a bacon crisis as the price of pork bellies, where the bacon comes from, topped $150 per hundredweight (100 lbs), according to the USDA. Hog farmers had pared their herds due to high feed costs and retail bacon prices surged to near $5 a pound, with some projections calling for $6 a pound. Prices were so high it prompted a hog-stealing epidemic, or as we here at the Pony blog called it - The Great Bacon Crime Spree of 2011.
After peaking above $150 last August, the price of pork bellies this week has been between $86 and $88 per hundredweight, according to the USDA. And at the grocery store, bacon prices are back around $3 to $4 per pound.
"It's supply and demand," said Jason Mosley, the author of the Mr. Bacon Pants blog and co-star of the"Bacon Live" podcast. "It was the perfect storm for prices to rise last year. The cost of feed. The cost of gas. This year, prices are going to rise around end of summer - but not as much as last year," he said, adding that increased hog production since last summer's near-crisis has helped drive prices down. (The late summer increase is typical - that's when hog supplies tend to go down.)
Take a deep breath.
You smell that? That's the smell of cheap bacon prices in the air.
Baconery, a bakery involving bacon, got into the spirit with a recent email blast that said: "It's Raining Bacon! 25% Off."
At the Sage General Store in Long Island City, NY, they have a bacon brunch every Sunday featuring everything from bacon-and-egg pizza to bacon brownies and at the Berkshire Restaurant in Denver, they have everything from bacon-wrapped tots to a bacon-tini and a bacon Bloody Mary.
And every fast-food chain seems to be getting in on the action, from Burger King's bacon sundae to the Jack-in-the-Box bacon milkshake and Lay's BLT-flavored potato chips. (Yup, that's a thing.)
To keep up on your bacon news, check out bacontoday.com, RepublicofBacon.com and CNBC's own bacon Twitter feed - @CNBCBaconNews.
Mosley said he thinks the drop in bacon prices comes at the perfect time as many Americans still struggle in this anemic economic recovery - many without jobs, or reduced pay and the added strain of higher prices for gas and other items.
"It's a great time for people getting back on their feet to finally be able to enjoy a treat - to treat themselves to bacon," Mosley said. "Lower prices make it easier for more people to enjoy bacon," he said.
"Bacon is the cheapest guilty pleasure. It is one of the most delicious things you can eat without breaking the bank," said Heather Lauer, author of the "Bacon Unwrapped" blog and the book"Bacon: A Love Story." "Bacon is the equalizer of foods - no matter how much you make, you can probably afford a BLT or bacon for breakfast," she said.
April is National BLT Month! Lauer, who lives in the Phoenix area, said she still has friends struggling who lost their jobs and are still losing their homes.
"Occasionally we still get together and have parties - and bacon is almost always a part of that! Even when things aren't so good - people aren't feeling good about how things are going - they can still get together and have fun and bacon is still there for us!" she said.
Lauer, incidentally, doesn't make a full-time living off of bacon. Her day job is as a public affairs consultant for clients including T.Boone Pickens, the head of BP Capital Management. She manages his online campaign, including the web site pickensplan.com.
So, you might say she's hedging her bets on volatile bacon prices, with some of her income coming indirectly from the energy sector!
Another little-known fact - April is National BLT Month. That might seem counter-intuitive, since tomatoes don't start to really ripen until July. Mosley said it could be the work of the hog industry trying to get everyone jazzed up for the coming summer grilling and tomato-ripening season and juice sales during a slow month. It is a little coincidental that March is National Hog Month (yup, also a thing) followed by National BLT Month in April!
Alas, it may be a good time for bacon in America but there is a bacon crisis brewing overseas in the UK, where bacon prices are soaring this summer due to new regulations on hog farmers.
But you can relax, America. No bacon crisis. No bacon austerity measures here. Summer is almost upon us and it's time to grill up - you may be paying more at the pump but it's going to be cheaper to bacon up!
In a recent "Bacon Live" podcast, Mosley suggested global imbalances could even be good for the economy.
"We will give you bacon if you give us oil!"
OK, let's not start crazy-talking.
More from CNBC:
5 Undefeated Food Challenges
Outrageous American Bars
10 Unusual Vodka Flavors
Video: Burger King's Bacon Sundae
By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com
SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an