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The Secret Financial Life of FoodFrom Commodities Markets to Supermarkets$
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Kara Newman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156714

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156714.001.0001

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This Little Piggy Made a Market

This Little Piggy Made a Market

The Rise and Fall of Pork Bellies

(p.107) Chapter Eight This Little Piggy Made a Market
The Secret Financial Life of Food

Kara Newman

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the rise and fall of pork bellies as commodities traded on the futures markets. As a financial instrument, pork bellies were iconic. For many, the image of greedy traders as pigs at the trough was equally iconic. Until pork belly became a headliner on restaurant menus, few knew exactly what a pork belly was. Pork bellies created a viable market at a precarious time for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and they lasted for a half-century, until the market closed in July 2011. This chapter first explains what a pork belly is before discussing how trading of hogs and pork parts began. It then considers how novel manufacturing techniques—pioneered in Cincinnati—transformed the meatpacking industry, and how Chicago supplanted Cincinnati as Porkopolis. It also looks at the Chicago stockyards and particularly the “disassembly line” that rose up to slaughter and process hogs, pork belly trading during the Civil War era, the disapperance of bacon from supermarkets, pork belly's revival on American diets, and how technology drove pork bellies out of commodity exchanges.

Keywords:   pork bellies, commodities, futures market, pigs, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, meatpacking industry, Chicago, Porkopolis, stockyards, commodity exchange

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