These days you can find this marvelous meat in ice cream, coffee, cupcakes, and chewing gum. There are bacon-scented candles, bacon lip balm and even a bacon deodorant. National Bacon Day is December 30th.
The first bacon factory opened in 1770. Locally farmers and butchers made bacon and in England, where it became a dietary staple, it was usually dry cured with salt and then smoked. In the late 18th century, a businessman named John Harris opened the first bacon processing plant where he developed a special brine solution for finishing the meat. The "Wiltshire Cure" method is still used today, and is a favorite of bacon lovers who prefer a sweeter, less salty taste.
The phrase "bringing home the bacon" refers to making money, but in 12th century England, churches would award a flitch, or a side, of bacon to any married man who swore before God that he and his wife had not argued for a year and a day. Men who "brought home the bacon" were seen as exemplary citizens and husbands.
During World War II housewives collected their bacon grease and the rendered fat was used to create glycerin which was used in bombs, gunpowder, and other munitions.
In the 1980s people turned on and attacked bacon because of the saturated fats and cholesterol. Even so, bacon couldn't be kept down. In 1992, Hardee’s Frisco Burger (a fast-food burgers served with bacon) became a hit and it revived bacon and today bacon cheese burgers are popular. Nowadays the average American consumes 18 pounds of bacon each year and in 2018, bacon accounted for $4.9 billion in sales. 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.”
Here is some good news! Most researchers focus on bacon’s bad side, however, some research shows positive health benefits associated with bacon consumption! And, the price of bacon, after adjusting for wages and inflation, is about 86 percent cheaper today than it was 100 years ago.
A University of North Carolina study found that choline, a micro-nutrient in bacon, is key to healthy brain development in unborn babies.
Besides that, it turns out bacon (and all pork) is good for the environment. Growing beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water than bacon and pork.
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, but overall bacon is a hearty and nutritious food packed with essential vitamins and nutrients.
Bacon contains Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, high-quality animal protein, 89 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for selenium, 53 percent for phosphorus plus minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium. A serving of bacon accounts for about one-fifth of the recommended daily fat. Unfortunately, a serving is considered to be only three slices.
Bacon is popular in restaurants where it’s used in a variety of ways, but it is predominantly a breakfast food with 70 percent of all bacon being consumed at breakfast.
The World Health Organization says bacon can cause cancer; of course they do. In 2015, they concluded that every daily portion of processed meat (including bacon) raises the risk of colo-rectal cancer by 18 percent.
Some medical researchers claim it's poppycock. For a healthy person, eating bacon every day will raise their overall risk of colon cancer from something like 5-6 percent
So, what's the trade-off? By foregoing bacon you can lower your intake of saturated fats and marginally lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. But by doing so you miss out on important vitamins and nutrients.