Restaurants hog wild, as pork demand grows

"Bacon is the duct tape of the kitchen" says CCC Culinary Instructor Dustin Schmidt (NTV News)

As busy Americans grab breakfast on the go, the nation’s pig farmers celebrate growing demand for pork.

Culinary instructor Dustin Schmidt at Central Community College doesn’t hide his love.

“I have a sign on my desk that says the bacon is the duct tape of the kitchen,” he said with a smile.

He’ll have bacon for breakfast, and even dessert.

“I do a bacon ice cream sometimes here,” he explained.

Schmidt loves to talk about sausage, cured meat, and heritage breeds.

He said, “You can do so much with pork. People are going from the tail to the snout and using everything in between.”

The numbers bear that out; Research firm Technomic has published data that shows pork has been the fastest growing protein in food service over the last six years, Growing twice as fast as chicken.

Jane Stone of the Nebraska Pork Producers said, “Chicken's grown around 500 million pounds, and pork over the last six years has grown over a billion pounds.”

It wasn’t always this way. As the domestic marketing director for the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Stone remembers it wasn’t long ago most chains had few, if any, pork dishes. She’d try in vain to get restaurants to add more pork to the menu.

Then the salty savory cured meat craze caught on.

“Bacon opened the door and the rest of the pig snuck behind it,” Stone said.

And while bacon continues to lead the way, chefs like Schmidt love the versatility.

He said, “You can use about every cooking method for pork -- grilling, smoking, braising.”

Taco and burrito places now offer carnitas, while burger joints serve up pulled pork.

And with busy Americans on the go, the advent of fast food breakfast has been huge, according to the Technomic report.

“There's no arguing we own breakfast - bacon, ham, sausage,” Stone said. “That's where a lot of growth has come from is companies like McDonald's offering all day breakfast, wow that's a tremendous coup for us.”

The Nebraska Pork Producers Association says it’s good news for hog farmers, and a sign they’ve been successful at creating demand.

Citing the Technomics food service report, the Pork Producers say the five largest categories driving pork category growth are bacon, processed ham, breakfast sausage, ribs and pepperoni.

They say the love of bacon shows no signs of slowing and represents the largest share of volume, at 20 percent, or 1.2 billion pounds, growing 4 percent since 2015.

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