It’s been called a meat condiment, meat candy, people have described themselves as having a bacon tooth. It seems like nowadays everywhere you go, you find bacon. Bacon infused vodka, bacon cupcakes, bacon wrapped anything under the sun… What can’t you find that isn’t bacon flavored? Bacon has become a national craze that has got even vegetarians admitting they find it hard to resist bacon. In an extremely and increasingly health conscious public and in a time when soda bans and trans fats bans are being legislated, why is bacon consumption in the United States growing larger than ever before? Well, to be honest, butchers and meat processors are really left scratching our heads here.
So when did this craze begin..? Somewhere at the turn of the century, bacon found its limelight and now basks as a mainstay in our pop culture. Between 2002 and 2007, bacon consumption rose by 40%. And we’ve experienced a steady increase of 1.1% per year since then. This bacon boom has now brought us into a market where the value of a pork belly now exceeds the value of a pork loin. And bacon now accounts for almost 20% of the total in-home pork consumption. In the history of pork, this is unheard of.
While American families across the nation are continuing their love affair with bacon, food production giants are raking in the profits from the bacon boom. Companies like Oscar Mayer, Kraft Foods, Hormel Foods, and Farmland Foods have all seen increases since they have catered to this bacon fueled craze. Bacon sales amongst these and other private brand labels for 52 weeks ending in May 2013 boast $3.7 billion! And we have certainly seen a huge increase in our bacon sales here too. In the past decade, it’s safe to say we have seen our bacon sales double, if not more. And yes, we even gave into the marketing with our t-shirts and Chico bags…
So what’s so special about bacon..? Depending on who you talk to, everyone has a different theory on why bacon has become such a craze. “Bacon has always been a mainstay for breakfast… In recent years, it’s become a meat condiment..” says National Pork Board director, Patrick Fleming. And in fact, he’s right. Take a middle of the road dish and add bacon to it, viola! Suddenly you’ve got a gourmet meal on your hands. But how is it that modern day health concerns have not slowed bacon sales? I guess people are realizing it’s an indulgence. It’s a way to add flavor to health dishes without adding a ton of guilt. Adding a bit of bacon to dishes is a way of kicking up the flavor to some as simple and healthy as a salad.
Some point to the food service industry claiming that they led this craze to bacon by adding it where we never found it before. In sandwiches, salads, and flavored sauces. Think of your burgers with bacon, chicken sandwich..? Add bacon. There is no denying that since bacon has exploded in the market, the food service industry has done it’s best to keep up with the demand. This has yielded to all sorts of new innovations in curing and flavoring bacon, poultry bacon has since exploded, and some producers are making bacon out of things like salmon. Bacon can now be found on pizza toppings, in sausage flavors, in baked goods, ice creams, alcoholic drinks, soda pop… You name it. This bacon craze has even led to a resurgence of artisan curing methods with products like pancetta both at home and in butcher shops across the nation.
America’s obsession with bacon has well exceeded just the food market… Bacon has found a place in pop culture. You can find bacon board games, bacon bandaids, bacon perfume, and during Christmas time, you can even find bacon candy canes. Some companies even take it to the extreme with their bacon coffin with the tagline “for those who love bacon to death”. And social media isn’t left out of the bacon craze… There is EVEN a Bacon app for your iphone where you can hear the sizzle and crackle of making frying right there on the screen. And I am sure everyone has seen the Should You Eat That Bacon flowchart..
Whatever the reason and however bacon ended up finding it’s place in our day-to-day lives, there is no denying the fact that bacon is here to stay. It will be interesting to see where we go from here and if this bacon craze will continue to ride itself out for the next decade or longer.
Are you feeding into the bacon loving frenzy? To read more about bacon, check out these posts:
- Bacon, Cottage Bacon, Canadian Bacon: What’s the Difference?
- Bacon Shortage…? Where Does Bacon Come From Anyway?
- Nitrites: What’s the Real Story?
And here are some random Bacon facts for your day!