Will Swine Flu Finally Kill the Pork-Belly Trend?

Photo: Down by the Hipster

Bobby Flay, for one, is taking a wait-and-see attitude about swine flu: “I don’t know anything about it,” he admitted to Jada Yuan at the opening night of Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms, “I’m just like everybody else — I’m just waiting to see what they really know about it.” But others are experiencing what the Times calls “pork panic.” With sales down at Wal-Mart, among other places, The Wall Street Journal says that agricultural groups have asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start referring to swine flu by its scientific name, H1N1. The World Health Organization has said the virus can’t be contracted from eating properly cooked pork, but another Journal briefing indicates that pork-belly stock is down 3.1 percent (“Pork bellies! Sell, Mortimer, Sell!”), and China, Russia, and several other countries are restricting U.S. pork imports (perhaps a sneaky way to push their own domestic product, Slate posits).

So how have restaurants been affected by all this? Nation’s Restaurant News says American eateries seemingly haven’t been hurt the way Mexico’s have (the government there recently ordered 35,000 Mexico City restaurants closed in order to contain the virus from spreading through close contact), but Zarela Martinez of midtown’s Zarela told Brian Lehrer that her business has dropped off since news of the virus started spreading. It seems consumers are wary of all things Mexico. Maybe she needs to use the trend to her advantage, like the bar that’s selling “swine flu shots”?

So … what are your thoughts? Are you avoiding restaurants like the plague? Do you agree with Mark Bittman’s Twitter that factory farms are the culprit, even if no smoking gun has been found? Or are you with the Food Section’s Twitter: “All of this talk about swine flu is really making me crave pork.”