Pasta (and Butter and Pork) Inflation

A few weeks ago, a daylong pasta strike in Italy made headlines around the world. The Not a Penne More boycott was a reaction to the skyrocketing price of pasta in a country where people eat approximately half their weight in it each year; this fall—when the results of high wheat costs really hit—pasta prices may rise a good 20 percent. But Italy isn't the only place where staple foods are getting pricier. According to recent Financial Times articles, poultry is already one-third more expensive in Europe than it was a year ago, and butter is 50 percent pricier than it was (I find those numbers particularly disturbing: These days, I probably couldn't afford to make the butter-rubbed chicken that was my cheap, staple dish as a student in France).

And then there's pork. In Europe, the price of pork is expected to go up 30 percent by next year. And in China, it's worse. Thanks in part to a ban on American and Canadian pig parts (that's scary, when China is rejecting your food) because of an additive called ractopamine, there's somewhat of a shortage in China, where they eat 130,000 to 150,000 tons of pork a day. That led to a 49 percent rise in the price of staple meats, an increase that's so high, the FT says, that it could spark a bank run. And so, CNN reports, China has released pigs from its central reserves. I didn't know there was such a thing as pig reserves, and there's some skepticism as to whether they can support China's huge pork habit, but prices have already come down. Still, watch the Financial Times for any pork-related bank runs in China.

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