What’s in your bacon?


What’s in your bacon?

“Is there anything that I would actually eat on this shelf?” I wondered this while I was wandering past a large, over-filled bacon wrack in my local Pathmark. The chances were overwhelmingly “No.” but I figured it was probably worth it to give a quick look. There is some impressively bacon-y looking bacon on the shelves. The reds of the meat were quite red. The pictures of the cooked bacon on the front were appetizing. There were some really top names there, some of whom are well known in the world of bacon. I didn’t see any of the brands that I normally buy, but that’s not an immediate “No.” – only merely an increased probability of a “No.” I stopped and picked up a package, if was one of the nicer packages on the shelf, looking to satisfy my curiosity with regards to whether this bacon, or any of it, would be acceptable food to me.

A quick glance at the back of the bacon package confirmed that I probably should have ignored my curiosity. Despite that ignoring my curiosity is definitely not my style! I picked up the next package, and then the next. Interestingly, I started to notice a pattern. Package after package could have been photocopies of the previous package. It seemed like each manufacturer was using nearly precisely the same combination of chemicals, in the same order! There were a few outliers, of course: there was a “Nitrate Free” version, which had some other nasty chemicals instead. There were some “Low Sodium” and “Low Fat” versions as well. I was so surprised by what I saw that I realized that I just had to take some photos of the bacon ingredients and share them! Hopefully this post helps a few people realize what they’re putting in their bodies when they decide to purchase and consume that stuff…

Boar’s Head: This is normally considered a top brand. They’ve got a great name, and are known for their quality. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether there is any extra effort here:

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Sodium Erythorbate
  • Sodium Nitrite

America’s Choice: This is one of the “Store Brands” that I have seen everywhere! Take a look at the ingredients:

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Sodium Erythorbate
  • Sodium Nitrite

Oh, look! No sugar!

Jones Turkey Bacon: This should be fairly simple, right. It’s Turkey Bacon, after all. Everyone knows that’s healthier!

  • Vinegar and Lemon Juice Concentrate
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Celery
  • Salt
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Seasoning

Vinegar in bacon? OK, maybe that’s acceptable, as long as it gets rid of those other things… But potassium chloride? I really don’t think I need a chloride (same as in chlorine) to be in my foods. Who wants to drink the swimming pool water?!?

Old Country Store: This looks familiar…

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Sodium Erythorbate
  • Sodium Nitrite

Different label on the front. Same ingredients on the back…

Oscar Meyer Selects: Ooh! A No-Nitrate bacon on a regular grocery store shelf? This is exciting! Let’s take a look at the ingredients…

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Cultured Celery Juice
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Cherry Powder

Ok, they seem to have made a genuine effort at producing a better product. I still wouldn’t buy this, because I don’t know how sodium phosphate will interact with my body. And I don’t really want to be a science project for the food companies to find out how it will work out. But this is a genuine improvement – I applaud Oscar Meyer for this! I’d like them to do better, but this is a good first step!

America’s Choice Low-Fat: This is a touchy subject for me in general. I don’t think the American obsession with fat is healthy, in the least. In fact, the American weight issue seems to support my views on the subject. That said, I tend to like the “lower fat” bacon products that I’ve tried, because I also happen to really enjoy the meat! What can I say, good meat is yummy to me! That said, let’s take a look at the ingredients:

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Sodium Erythorbate
  • Sodium Nitrite

Oh, that again. Well, I guess I won’t be tasting this bacon to figure out if I like it too…

Can you tell the difference?

Obviously figuring out which is which shouldn’t be terribly difficult, since I gave them captions. But here’s the thing: if they weren’t captioned, would you be able to tell the difference then? They’re all the same! Well, all except the Oscar Meyer and the Jones Turkey Bacon, anyway – and the Oscar Meyer still has those same sodium phosphates that the others all seem to possess, while the Jones Turkey Bacon has potassium chloride instead.

Here’s what I would see in my version of an ideal world: I would love to see all of those manufactured chemicals, with little-to-no relationship with the natural predecessor to those chemicals, replaced entirely with the original curing process and ingredients. Sugar? Not ideal, but not the end of the world. Chemical nitrates? I can absolutely do without these!

“It’s just not that simple…”

I’ve heard this more times than I want to count. But the “simple truth” here is that it is that simple! At least, to me it is. So…

What’s in your bacon?

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