There are few things in life that I really am sure of. Well, except for the fact that yes, I just ended a sentence in a preposition and violated sacred grammar law. Somewhere my sixth grade teacher just gasped in pain. The sky is blue, and I know for a fact I hate certain types of weather. I also know that, while I believe I could live in a world without most kinds of meat and meat products, I do not want to live in a world without bacon. I think many people would agree with me. After all, bacon memes abound. We’ve created Baconnaise, bacon cupcakes and bacon ice cream for those who just can’t get enough bacon-flavor in their diet from the original pork product alone. Bacon is just that special—I even have a bacon-print wallet I keep my money in when I “bring home the bacon.” If bacon wasn’t important, we’d be proud of “bringing home” something else.
Speaking of “bringing home the bacon,” I recently saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods (a Virginia-based, mega-conglomerate and producer of bacon) by the Shuanghui International Holdings Group, a Chinese meat producer, for $4.72 billion. The deal will take the world’s largest pork producer, with brands such as Armour, Farmland and its namesake, Smithfield, private. (Before anyone asks, there are no closures planned at Smithfield’s facilities and locations, including its Smithfield, Va., headquarters.) The deal actually should result in room for the company to grow by connecting the world’s largest producer into the world’s largest market. I feel like I should make a joke here about increasing bacon consumption and a person needing ‘room to grow’, but I’ll hold back because after all, my love of bacon is the real reason I read this article.
Smithfield dwarfs its investment-suitor in revenues but sees a huge upside in gobbling-up a large slab of the international market. The world must share my perspective about the innate goodness and necessity to consume delicious bacon.
Smithfield would enter that market with a distinct niche and competitive advantage— food safety concerns are high in China and consumers there place high levels of trust in Western products. Score! Right now, approximately one-fifth of all U.S. exports come from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned firms. Whether or not that percentage is high or low is a debate for economists, as is the debate about the merits (or lack thereof) in foreign investment or these types of purchases. I feel pretty confident that it’s probably a good thing. After all, thirty-three percent of the $2.5 trillion in foreign direct investment in the United States supports the manufacturing sector.
When you combine faith in Western quality with the fact that the United States is considered the best place to do business because of our skilled and productive workforce, consistent rule of law, cheap oil and gas, intellectual property protection, world class universities, and entrepreneurial spirit it’s not surprising to see foreign investments of this meaty magnitude occurring.
Some may comment that the American pop-culture craze for bacon is waning if not already on the decline. I am not so sure. And, it certainly doesn’t take a wallop to the side of the head with a frying pan to see that the world market for bacon is sizzling.