Where Does Big Buy Bacon Come From? The Complete Guide

Bacon, the crispy and savory meat that we all know and love, has been a staple in the Western diet for centuries.

But have you ever wondered where the bacon you buy at your local grocery store comes from? Is it sourced from humane and sustainable farms, or is it mass-produced in a factory farm?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the origins of bacon and explore the different methods used to produce this beloved meat. From traditional seasonal breeding to modern-day curing techniques, we’ll uncover the secrets behind where big buy bacon really comes from.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn everything you need to know about your favorite breakfast food.

Where Does Big Buy Bacon Come From?

When it comes to big buy bacon, the answer is not as simple as you might think. Unlike other cuts of meat that have specific names and origins, bacon can come from various parts of the pig, including the belly, back, or sides.

In the United States, the most common type of bacon is “streaky” bacon, which is cut from the pork belly. This type of bacon is often mass-produced in factory farms, where pigs are raised in cramped and unsanitary conditions. These pigs are typically fed a diet of corn and soybeans, which can be genetically modified and sprayed with pesticides.

On the other hand, there are also farms that specialize in producing high-quality bacon from heritage breed pigs. These pigs are raised on pasture and fed a natural diet that includes grass, roots, and insects. They are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and are treated humanely throughout their lives.

One such farm is Prairie Creek Farms, which sources its bacon from 100% pastured Berkshire pigs that are non-GMO. The owners of this farm are passionate about humane treatment and environmental stewardship, ensuring that their bacon is not only delicious but also sustainable and ethical.

The History Of Bacon: From Ancient Times To Today

The history of bacon can be traced back thousands of years to ancient China, where pork bellies were cured with salt to create an early form of bacon. Pigs were domesticated in China as early as 4900 B.C., and were also being raised in Europe by 1500 B.C. It is speculated that the Romans and Greeks learned bacon production and curing through conquests in the Middle East, and improved pig breeding and spread pork production throughout their empire.

Cured meats, including bacon, were a staple of the peasant’s diet in medieval Europe. The word “bacon” originally referred to all pork, but it gradually evolved to specifically refer to the side of pork, or the pig’s sides, that were cured with salt. In the early- to mid-18th century, pig farmers in the English countryside noticed that some breeds of pig had meatier sides, and began breeding specific types of pigs to create the best bacon.

The first bacon curing facility was located in Wiltshire, England, where founder John Harris used a technique now known as the Wiltshire cure. This special brine creates low-salt bacon with a sweet, delicious flavor, and it still exists today. Throughout the years, the English continued to identify and breed specific types of pigs for bacon production.

Bacon reached the present-day United States in the mid-1500s when Hernando de Soto of Spain brought thirteen domesticated pigs on his voyage to the North American continent. In three short years, the pig population jumped to nearly 700. Until the first world war, bacon fat was the cooking fat of choice in most US households, when prepackaged pig lard became commonly available.

Today, bacon is a beloved breakfast food and ingredient in many dishes around the world. While mass-produced bacon from factory farms is widely available, there are also farms that specialize in producing high-quality bacon from heritage breed pigs that are raised humanely and sustainably.

Traditional Breeding And Farming Methods For Bacon Production

Traditionally, bacon production followed a seasonal schedule. Piglets were born in the spring and were then raised and fattened up until they were ready to be slaughtered towards the end of the year. This was an effective way of feeding families through the winter, as pork could be cured to create various products, including bacon.

Unlike other cuts of pork, bacon is not defined by being from a specific part of the pig. It can come from anywhere that has an exceptionally high fat content, such as the belly, back, or sides. In the United Kingdom, back bacon is most common, while Americans are more familiar with “streaky” bacon, which is cut from pork belly.

To turn the meat into bacon, it needs to go through a curing process. This process involves treating the meat with salt and other ingredients to preserve it and enhance its flavor. In traditional methods, this was done by rubbing the meat with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices and then allowing it to dry for several weeks. Today, most bacon is cured using a wet brine solution that includes salt, sugar, and other flavorings.

In the past, pig farming was done on a smaller scale and followed traditional breeding methods. Pigs were allowed to roam freely and were fed a natural diet that included scraps from the family’s table. However, with the rise of industrial farming methods, pig farming has become more specialized and efficient.

Today’s pig farms are highly optimized and have separate facilities for gestation, breeding, nursing, and slaughter. Farmers use selective breeding techniques to produce pigs with larger litters, less disease, and more muscle growth. Pigs are now raised to be lean and muscular rather than fat.

However, there is growing concern about the welfare of pigs in factory farms. Animal welfare campaigners argue that large litters can result in weak and sickly piglets that suffer unnecessarily. They advocate for a return to traditional breeding methods that prioritize animal welfare and natural biology over profit margins.

Factory Farming: The Dark Side Of Bacon Production

Unfortunately, not all bacon comes from farms like Prairie Creek Farms. In fact, over 99% of farm animals in the US live on factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These large industrialized farms are designed to maximize profit and minimize cost, leading to inhumane conditions for the animals and numerous environmental and health risks.

In factory farms, pigs are raised indoors in crowded and filthy conditions, often with no access to sunlight or fresh air. Sows are kept in cages so small they cannot even turn around, and piglets are frequently accidentally crushed by their mothers due to the cramped quarters. The floors of these barns are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit, but many other things can end up in these pits as well, including afterbirths, stillborn pigs, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, and antibiotic syringes.

The air inside these barns is saturated with gases from manure and chemicals, making it dangerous for the pigs to breathe. To combat this, enormous exhaust fans run 24/7, but if they break down for any length of time, pigs can start dying. This toxic environment also damages the pigs’ immune systems, making them susceptible to infection and disease. As a result, factory-farm pigs are infused with a range of antibiotics and vaccines and doused with insecticides. Without these compounds, diseases would likely kill them.

From a business standpoint, animal welfare is a barrier to profit as it costs less to mass-produce animals and discard those who die prematurely than it does to care for them adequately. In fact, it is estimated that upward of 2 billion animals destined to become food die before reaching the slaughterhouse. This is a factor that is built into the cost of production.

The Rise Of Sustainable And Humane Bacon Farms

As consumers become more conscious about the impact of their food choices on the environment, animal welfare, and their own health, there has been a growing demand for sustainable and humane bacon farms. These farms prioritize the well-being of their animals and the environment, while also producing high-quality bacon that is free from harmful additives and chemicals.

Many of these farms follow regenerative farming practices, which focus on building healthy soil, reducing waste, and promoting biodiversity. They also prioritize animal welfare by providing their pigs with ample space to move around and access to fresh air, sunlight, and clean water.

One notable example is Niman Ranch, a network of over 700 independent family farmers who raise their pigs using traditional methods. These pigs are fed a vegetarian diet that is free from antibiotics and hormones, and are allowed to roam freely in open pastures. The result is bacon that is not only delicious but also sustainable and humane.

Other sustainable bacon farms include Tender Belly, which sources its pork from small family farms that use regenerative practices, and Beeler’s Pure Pork, which raises its pigs without antibiotics or growth hormones and feeds them a natural diet that includes non-GMO corn and soybeans.

The Art Of Curing: How Bacon Gets Its Flavor

Curing is an essential step in the process of making bacon, as it not only preserves the meat but also imparts the unique flavor that we associate with bacon. The curing process involves covering the pork belly with a mixture of salt and sugar, which draws out the moisture and inhibits bacterial growth.

While some recipes call for the addition of pink salt, which contains nitrates that help preserve the meat and give it a pink color, it is possible to cure bacon without it. However, the use of pink salt is a personal choice and should be used in moderation.

The length of time that the pork belly is cured will depend on the desired level of saltiness and flavor. Typically, bacon is cured for around 5 days, but some recipes may call for longer or shorter curing times. Once the curing process is complete, the pork belly is rinsed off and dried thoroughly before being hung to age or cooked immediately.

The flavor of bacon can also be enhanced by adding other ingredients to the curing mixture, such as herbs, spices, or even coffee or maple syrup. This allows for endless possibilities in creating unique and flavorful bacon that can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes.

The Truth About Nitrites And Nitrates In Bacon

Nitrites and nitrates are food additives that are commonly used in the production of bacon. These additives are responsible for giving bacon its characteristic pink color and also act as preservatives to extend its shelf life. However, there is growing concern about the health risks associated with these additives.

Studies have linked nitrites and nitrates to an increased risk of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. When these additives are heated at high temperatures, they can form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic compounds. This means that consuming large amounts of bacon or other processed meats that contain nitrites and nitrates can be harmful to your health.

To address these concerns, some bacon manufacturers have started producing nitrate-free bacon. Instead of using synthetic nitrites and nitrates, these manufacturers use natural sources like celery powder to cure the meat. While this may seem like a healthier option, it’s important to note that celery powder also contains nitrates.

In fact, studies have shown that nitrate levels in uncured bacon can be even higher than in cured bacon. This is because the nitrates in celery powder are converted to nitrites during the curing process. So while nitrate-free bacon may not contain synthetic nitrites, it still has the potential to produce harmful nitrosamines when cooked at high temperatures.

The bottom line is that all bacon is likely to contain some level of nitrites and nitrates, whether added as an ingredient or formed naturally during processing. If you’re concerned about the health risks associated with these additives, your best bet is to choose high-quality bacon from farms that raise their pigs humanely and feed them a natural diet. By doing so, you can enjoy delicious bacon without compromising your health.