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Go Ahead, Pet That Belly It Won't Bite


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GO AHEAD, PET THAT BELLY--IT WON'T BITE

The week of Sept. 16 was a special one at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Merc held a sort of festival of pigs to mark 30 years of trading in pork bellies. For the occasion, two true bellies were wheeled out for display at the Merc, giving some traders their first glimpse of what they were buying and selling: 12-to-14-pound slabs of frozen, uncured bacon.

As at a petting zoo, traders were encouraged to touch the frigid porcine parts (napkins were thoughtfully provided nearby). "They were beautiful-looking bellies," marvels one trader.

Belly traders still must defend their dignity against cynics who think it's funny that grown-ups spend their lives belly-swapping. "There must be some mystery about the name," remarks Harvey Paffenroth, a 20-year veteran of the belly pit. "You can say, `I've traded gold, I've traded soybeans.' But pork bellies--there's a real mystique to it."EDITED BY SUNITA WADEKAR BHARGAVA


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