Will the world have a Bacon-Apocalypse? Baconholics reveal all
Bacon – have it fresh, have it fried, have it all. More recently, bacon has become the chocolate of the meat industry. Bacon vodka, cookies with bacon, and yes even a bacon milkshake has hit the market with favorable popularity. Though, according to the National Pig Association (NPA), there is predicted to be a pork shortage. What will people do if this happens? And more importantly, why are we bacon-holics to begin with? Four bacon connoisseurs from America defend bacon to the core of why it’s so popular and not going away any time soon.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US produced about 22.5 billion pounds of pork in 2010 and consumed around 19 billion pounds of pork. However, why is the pork industry one of the fastest growing in the US – bacon.
“I think the smell and taste of bacon appeals to basic human instincts. It's hard to resist the smoky scent of bacon when it's cooking - in the same way that it's hard to resist the scent of meat cooking over a fire, which humans have been doing for thousands of years. I also think the balance of sweet and salty flavors in the bacon is a flavor combination that appeals to a lot of palates. Additionally, bacon is something most of us were first treated to as young kids - it's not something you ate at every meal, it was usually served on special occasions - so there's a nostalgic connection to it, as well,” explained Heather Lauer, a public relations consultant and owner of baconunwrapped.com.
More recently, bacon has been turning heads with bacon flavored alcohol called Bakon Vodka, and Burger King’s most recent get up, a bacon sundae. However, it makes us think, why do people relate to bacon so strongly in America? “My theory is that during the 1980s and 90s, everything was so low-cal, low-fat, saccharine and jazzercise, people needed a culinary revolution, or maybe a devolution. The “foodie” community has really embraced old-world, hand-crafted foods, peasant recipes, and a return to enjoying fat in moderation. Bacon is at the heart of that change, and is especially useful because a little bacon can make a huge flavor impact on a recipe,” told Marianne, the Bacon Maven of the Royal Bacon Society.
The complexity behind bacon’s multi-faceted flavor makes it the one of the most acceptable ingredients in dishes. The texture can be chewy or crispy while the taste can be salty, spicy, or sweet. Even though bacon is one of the oldest processed meats in history, dating back to China, the health concerns surrounding bacon are a bit daunting including high salt content and if fried can be very greasy. Scholar Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic’s 2003 study at the University of Alberta showed that eating bacon can be acceptable to consume on a daily basis. She gave participants a high bacon fat diet and compared this to a high palm oil diet (the main oil used in many American foods). The results proved that a diet high in lard deemed lower overall cholesterol compared to the high palm oil diet.
Sparks of creativity comes from bacon in many forms too, not just in scientific experiments. Bacon Fest is an annual celebration which happens in a variety of cities in America. “Our mission is to throw an amazing bacon party where there’s bacon everywhere. We sell tickets and when you buy a ticket it grants you access to a bacon paradise where everywhere you look there’s a delicious dish inspired by bacon,” said Seth Zurer, a bacon fest impresario, and one of the organizers and founders of Bacon Fest Chicago. He has seen it all with bacon, from novelty products to gourmet meals all the way to bacon sausage.
Vegetarians may be a tad bit jealous at how mainstream bacon has become. Nevertheless, even people who have sworn off meat can still enjoy the taste of it with a product that is definitely one of a kind. “Bacon Salt is a zero calorie, zero fat, vegetarian and kosher bacon flavored seasoning, it doesn’t have any sugars or carbs or cholesterol,” assured Justin Esch, co-founder of J&D’s Foods, a company which is proud of their bacon inventions. They then put out Baconnaise, a mayonnaise flavored bacon and Bacon POP, which is bacon flavored popcorn, just to name a few.
Besides the food which J&D’s sells, they have also tried their hand at selling other bacon related products. Such as their bacon lip balm which is a huge holiday item. “The bacon flavored sex lube is by far the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever made and we sell so much of it – it’s so disgusting,” admitted Esch to the Voice of Russia who loves bacon and said that bacon really is the undisputed king of all meats.
In the past couple of months though, Britain’s National Pig Association (NPA) told the public that the king of all meats is dying – in other words, a global shortage is inevitable. The Farm Gate blog disagrees with the idea of a shortage as the USDA’s statistics do not correlate with their prediction. In fact, this blog stated that they are planning to increase the production of pork for 2013 – a relief for many in the bacon community. “Our advice is a) don’t panic! Bacon isn’t going anywhere. But b) Plan accordingly…your bacon budget might just be increasing,” exclaimed Marianne to the Voice of Russia, who loves bacon because of its self-contained sensory explosion.
If those predictions are right though, and prices get hiked up, this may tempt more people to buy the next best product, such as artificial bacon. “I don't think synthetic bacon or other alternative forms of bacon, like tofu or turkey, will ever catch on in a mainstream way. They just aren't as good as the real thing,” clarified Lauer to the Voice of Russia, who authored the book Bacon: A Love Story.
Russia does not consume nearly as much bacon as America does. The USDA’s preliminary results put the Russian Federation production of pork for 2010 at a measly 4 billion pounds while they actually consumed an estimated 6 billion pounds of it. Clearly there is a need for this beloved meat in Russia and hopefully in the near future – will not see bacon or pork of any kind disappear from store shelves.
“I definitely think bacon has become even more popular now because there’s been this kind of bacon renaissance going on where people have rediscovered the joys of bacon,” said Esch. The more people who realize how savory, rich, and deeply satisfying bacon can be, leads to a higher chance of having less to go around for everyone. On the bright side, maybe Zurer says it best: “It’s [bacon is] one of the things where we have relatively few uncomplicated pleasures from anymore.” The ruler of meat, the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert topping of choice and the all-around classic is none other than— bacon.