The Metaphysics of Bacon

I know you’ve all heard of the famous “plant-based” impossible burger, which is deeply confusing because I’ve always thought every one of my burgers was “plant-based”—cows eat plants, and then I eat the cow. QED. Now comes news that someone is trying to make “plant-based bacon,” and count me skeptical. Actually, if you do a web search, you will find lots of links to “vegan bacon,” which has to be near the great oxymoron ever conceived by a postmodern English department. I say, with Homer Simpson, that you’ll never replace that miracle animal that gives us bacon, hot dogs, sausage, pork shops, baby back ribs, kielbasa, and the rest.

Our friends at the indispensable Foundation for Economic Education did a roundup of 15 key facts and health benefits of bacon a while ago, and some of these deserve highlight and commentary (in italics):

America is currently in the midst of a decades-long trend of “bacon mania.” In 2018, bacon accounted for $4.9 billion in US sales, up from $4.7 billion the previous year and an increase of more than 20 percent from 2012.

Only $5 billion??  It should be more like $50 billion.

2. Research suggests there are cognitive benefits of eating bacon


3. Bacon is environmentally friendly

I’ve just thought of yet another way to ruin Greta Thunberg’s day. (Though I doubt she needs much help with that.)

4. Bacon is 86 percent cheaper than it was 100 years ago

In 2014, Fox News reported that bacon prices hit “a new all-time high” after reaching “a whopping $6.11 per pound.” As bacon lovers worldwide already knew, the price, which soon fell when consumers and producers adjusted, was abnormally high – up 40 percent from just two years before. However, bacon wasn’t really more expensive than ever.

All the more reason we should be eating a lot more bacon. See Item #1 above.

5. Bacon first appeared in China thousands of years ago

Americans may love their bacon, but the savory snack predates the discovery of the New World by thousands of years. Food historians say salted pork belly first appeared in China around 1500 BC.

Is there anything the Chinese didn’t invent first? Lately, though, I’ve heard there is an acute shortage of pork products in China, which just goes to show you: avoid Communism.

6. Americans eat 18 lbs. of bacon … annually

A typical American consumes 18 pounds of bacon each year. That weight is slightly less than your average car tire.

Only 18 lbs?! Underachievers.  Again, see Item #1 above.

Bacon is high in saturated fat and contains additives such as nitrates and nitrites that cause concern among scientists who fear it could be linked to gastric cancer (more on that later). However, overall bacon is a hearty and nutritious food packed with essential vitamins and nutrients. As Healthline points out, bacon contains:

  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12
  • 37 grams of high-quality animal protein
  • 89 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for selenium
  • 53 percent of the RDA for phosphorus
  • Plenty of minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium

In fact …

A serving of bacon is three average-sized slices. Each serving, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, contains 7.5 grams of protein; nine grams of fat (3.8 of which are saturated); 30 milligrams of cholesterol; 435 milligrams of sodium; and 120 calories. A 12-ounce can of Pepsi, meanwhile, has zero grams of protein and 150 calories.

To put that nine grams of fat figure (see above) into perspective, the RDA of fat is 44-77 grams per day. That means three pieces of bacon counts for at most 20 percent of your daily recommended fat intake. Sure, the saturated fat intake is higher than one would like, but hardly off the charts.

Only one-fifth? Again, lots of room in a healthy diet for more bacon.

Bacon is popular in restaurants where it’s used in a variety of ways by chefs – on sandwiches and burgers, pasta and appetizers. Still, it remains predominantly a breakfast food. In fact, 70 percent of all bacon is consumed at breakfast, surveys show.

C’mon Pork Products Association! Where is the ad campaign: “Bacon—it’s not just for breakfast any more.” Forget just bacon-cheeseburgers at lunch; it’s good on pizza, in salad, mixed with spinach.

America’s enthusiasm for bacon goes well beyond pseudo churches and fringe academies, however. A survey conducted in 2014 by Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork supplier, found that 65 percent of Americans would make bacon America’s “national food.”

The good sense of Americans shows through again.

Ancient Romans and Chinese may have enjoyed bacon, but they probably didn’t have bacon academies. The United States does. Camp Bacon, held annually in Ann Arbor, Michigan, allows bacon enthusiasts to listen to speakers, take cooking classes, and learn about all things bacon. If you think that’s crazy, consider this next factoid …

OMG! Can I be an adjunct professor?

UPDATE: There is also “Camp Bacon.” Where was this when I was a kid?

Few people likely know that there is officially a bacon religion. That’s right. The United Church of Bacon has more than 25,000 members around the world. The church, whose official symbol is two slices of bacon worshiping the sun, has even performed hundreds of weddings. True, the faith was launched as a parody religion by skeptics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean its tried and true believers don’t take its seventh commandment—to praise bacon—seriously.

Sounds like a solid First Amendment case to me.

Incidentally, I recently decided to cook bacon in an oven (400 degrees for 20 minutes if you prefer thick cut bacon, as you should) instead of frying it in a pan, as I’ve done my whole life. Can’t believe I didn’t try this years ago. I’ll never fry it in the pan on the stove top again.

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