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Holiday spiral ham pricier this year because of fat pigs

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Holiday ham will be pricier this season. (iStock)

It doesn't seem to make sense,  but spiral ham this year will cost more per pound even though hogs in the U.S. are fatter.  

That's because farmers have been overfeeding pigs to make up for commercial losses after a virus killed millions of piglets earlier this year. 

Pork overall will be less expensive due to the excess meat, but the hind legs of many animals have exceeded the size used to make the traditional spiral cut seen on many holiday tables, reports Bloomberg.

“This year has been a struggle for people that sell half hams because heavier hogs are coming to market,” Brian Mariuz, chief financial officer of Honey Baked Ham division in Michigan, told Bloomberg.  

Government data shows that half of all ham consumption in U.S. occurs at Thanksgiving and Christmas with retail spices up 26 percent—a record $3.433 per pound. The number of hogs slaughtered through Nov. 15 of this year was down by about five million animals, to 92.09 million, according to USDA data. Pork output overall was down 1.2 percent.

With fewer pigs this year, fewer hind leg hams in the traditional size (17 to 20 pounds) will be available. HoneyBaked Ham’s are up to $7.59 a pound this year—30 cents more than the same time in 2013. The larger pigs yield hams that weigh between 23 and 27 pounds which is too much meat for the average consumer.

“There’s a lot of hams not showing up on the market,” said Russell Barton, who reports on ham for Urner Barry. “So many of them are not at an optimal weight.”

One silver lining in this is that your holiday breakfast may be a bit cheaper. Earlier this year, bacon prices reached record highs but have since fallen.