Bacon is a beloved breakfast staple that has been enjoyed for generations. However, in recent years, concerns have been raised about the health risks associated with consuming processed meats.
In 2015, the World Health Organization classified all processed meat as carcinogenic, including bacon. This has led many people to wonder if uncured bacon is a healthier alternative to its cured counterpart.
In this article, we will explore what uncured bacon is, how it is made, and whether or not it is considered processed meat. So, if you’re a bacon lover looking for answers, keep reading!
Is Uncured Bacon Considered Processed Meat?
The short answer is yes, uncured bacon is still considered processed meat. While it may not contain synthetic nitrates or nitrites, it still undergoes a curing process to preserve and add flavor to the meat.
Uncured bacon is cured using natural nitrates found in celery, beets, and other vegetables. These natural nitrates are combined with seasonings and fresh sea salt to create a delicious bacon cure that is free of artificial chemicals.
However, it is important to note that uncured bacon is still a processed meat. The curing process involves treating the meat to preserve or add flavor, which includes salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. This means that even though uncured bacon may not contain synthetic nitrates or nitrites, it is still considered a processed meat.
What Is Uncured Bacon?
Uncured bacon is a type of bacon that is cured using natural nitrates found in vegetables like celery and beets, instead of synthetic nitrates or nitrites. The process involves injecting pork belly with a brine of salt, sugar, and curing agents like cultured celery powder, which can also include flavorings such as herbs and spices. The pork sits in this solution for up to 24 hours, absorbing the brine’s flavors and developing bacterial resistance.
Despite the name, uncured bacon is still cured meat. It undergoes a different process than traditional cured bacon, but it still involves treating the meat to preserve or add flavor. While uncured bacon may be a better option for those looking to avoid synthetic nitrates or nitrites, it is still considered a processed meat.
When searching for uncured bacon at the grocery store, look for products labeled “sodium nitrate-free” to ensure that no artificial chemicals have been added. It’s important to note that while uncured bacon may be a healthier option, it should still be consumed in moderation as all processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
How Is Uncured Bacon Made?
Uncured bacon is made by naturally curing and smoking the meat. The process starts by injecting pork belly with a brine of salt, sugar, and natural curing agents like cultured celery powder. This brine can also include various flavorings such as herbs and spices. The pork then sits in this solution for 12 to 24 hours, absorbing the flavors of the brine and developing resistance to bacteria.
After the curing process, the bacon is partially cooked during smoking, but it must be fully cooked before consumption. There are several ways to cook bacon, including on a skillet on the stove, on a baking sheet in the oven, on the grill, in a microwave, or even in an air fryer.
When searching for uncured bacon at the store, most products will be labeled as such and will have an additional label stating “sodium nitrate-free.” This label is important to look for because products that contain sodium nitrate can potentially put your health at risk.
What Makes Bacon Processed Meat?
Processed meat refers to any meat that has undergone a preservation or flavoring process, such as salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking. Bacon, both cured and uncured, falls under this category.
Cured bacon is preserved with a commercial preparation of salt and sodium nitrites. Nitrites are additives responsible for giving bacon its pink color, among many things. Uncured bacon, on the other hand, is cured with natural nitrates found in celery and other vegetables.
Despite the difference in curing agents, both types of bacon undergo a process that alters the meat’s natural state. This process involves treating the meat to preserve or enhance its flavor, making it a processed meat.
According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), consuming processed meats like bacon can increase the risk of colon cancer. Studies have shown that the chemicals used in the curing process can turn into carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines. These compounds can lead to the development of cancer and other health issues.
Is Uncured Bacon A Healthier Alternative?
Many people consider uncured bacon to be a healthier alternative to cured bacon, as it does not contain synthetic nitrates or nitrites. While it is true that the amount of nitrates in uncured bacon is generally lower than in cured bacon, it is important to remember that it is still a processed meat.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meats, including bacon, as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning they are known to cause cancer in humans. While the amount of nitrates in uncured bacon may be lower than in cured bacon, it is still present and can contribute to the formation of carcinogenic substances during cooking.
In addition, cooking bacon at high temperatures can release chemicals that also increase the risk of colon cancer. Therefore, it is important to cook bacon properly and in moderation.
While uncured bacon may be a better option than cured bacon in terms of synthetic nitrates and nitrites, it should still be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It is important to focus on incorporating healthy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into your diet to decrease the risk of heart disease and other health problems.
The Bottom Line: Should You Eat Uncured Bacon?
The decision to eat uncured bacon ultimately comes down to personal preference and dietary choices. While uncured bacon may be marketed as a healthier alternative to cured bacon, it is still a processed meat and should be consumed in moderation.
It is important to note that the World Health Organization has classified processed meats, including bacon, as Group 1 carcinogens. This means that consuming processed meats on a regular basis may increase the risk of developing cancer.
If you choose to eat uncured bacon, it is important to look for products that are labeled “sodium nitrate-free” and “no nitrates or nitrites added.” However, keep in mind that even though these products do not contain synthetic nitrates or nitrites, they still undergo a curing process and are considered processed meat.