Guide to Bacon & Sausage
Yes! You can eat bacon!
But it has to be the right bacon. And to pick the right bacon, you’ve got to KNOW your bacon.
All bacon is NOT created equal.
In truth, at its best, bacon is just pork cured with spices and salt. Curing is just an ancient method of preserving meat without refrigeration.
(Of course, modern bacon is refrigerated, which is a great thing: it keeps it safer, while still keeping it delicious.)
As Liz discusses in Eat the Yolks and throughout this site, quality meat – including bacon; and quality sea salt – which is a “must” in quality bacon, are both totally healthy!
Unfortunately, the modern meat industry began using lots of yucky shortcuts and sheisty tricks to make their bacon cheaper to produce and more profitable for them. However, this made their bacon WORSE for the people eating it. (Not like they care.)
Here’s what the modern meat industry did to ruin bacon (most of these guidelines also apply to sausage!)
- They use low-quality meat from poorly-treated animals. Most conventional bacon is from mistreated pigs, raised in factory farms, on an unnatural diet. Any toxins from the feed, antibiotics, or skewed Omega 6 ratios derived from the animal feed are passed along to us.
- They added synthetic nitrates. While nitrates occur naturally in vegetables, and, when used in curing meats, can help keep those meats safe, the modern meat industry uses lab-created nitrates – most often, sodium nitrite/nitrate – that our bodies can’t handle.
- They use refined salt. Bacon is famous for its satisfying salty flavor, but using refined salt eliminates all the beneficial trace minerals contained in sea salt. Salt can do two things: it can mask bad flavors, and it can enhance good ones. Over-use of refined salt masks the yucky flavor of poor-quality meat.
- They added other preservatives BESIDES salt. Anything you can’t pronounce on the ingredients label for your bacon is probably a preservative, added to keep meat from becoming dangerous in its long journey from factory to supermarket shelf.
- They use more sugar than they need to mask yucky flavor. Low-quality meat can have a mushy texture and bland flavor, so often high amounts of refined sugar are added to cover up flavor problems and crack out our taste buds. (Up next: why sugar is used in GOOD bacon.)
Here’s the truth about real, good, HEALTHY bacon:
- It’s from healthy, well-raised animals. Pasture-raised pork (it’s easy to find at EatWild.com!) makes the most flavorful, healthy bacon. We are what our animals ate!
- There are no synthetic nitrates. Sodium nitrate/nitrite is a synthetic additive and should be avoided. Quality bacon often uses NATURAL nitrates from celery or beet powder, which evidence suggests are totally safe. In fact, these natural nitrates help protect the meat from spoilage.
- They use sea salt. Sea salt preserves meat AND contains a full compliment of trace minerals that keep us healthy. It also enhances the delicious flavor of quality meat.
- There are no extra preservatives. Salt is all you need to enhance the flavor while keeping the meat preserved.
- They use the proper amount of sugar. In curing meats, including jerky, sugar is used to tenderize meat AND inhibit bacterial growth. There’s nothing wrong with sugar in bacon, as long as it’s not over-used. (See below for a good rule of thumb.)
So here’s what to look for:
Choose bacon from sources you trust.
- at the grocery store, Applegate Farms is of good quality. There are other similar brands – if you’re not sure, whip out that smartphone and Google on-the-spot!
- most “Natural” and Organic grocery stores will be able to answer your questions about meat quality (be sure to brush up on our Guide to Choosing Meats).
- The BEST place to source your food affordably is through local farmers. EatWild.com is your best friend (by buying from our local farmer, we pay just $3.50 per lb of pork products!)
Choose bacon with the RIGHT kind and the right amount of sugar.
- High-fructose corn syrup is NOT ok.
- Maple syrup, unrefined, or organic sugars are best.
- A good rule of thumb: if the carb count is low (under 1g per serving, approximately) yet there’s sugar on the ingredients list, the sugar was used properly. If the sugar count is incredibly high, it might have been over-used.
Choose bacon with a short ingredients list.
- All you need is sea salt, herbs, celery or beet powder (sources of natural nitrates) and – sometimes – unrefined sugar in the proper amounts.
- Sodium nitrite/nitrate is a synthetic nitrate and should be avoided.
- Anything you can’t pronounce? That’s a hallmark sign that your bacon is of poor quality or from careless producers.