Valley Bounty: Bacon

I think we can use bacon as an opportunity to examine some of the influences that shape our diets. The popularity of Google searches for “bacon” and “bacon recipe” trend steadily upwards over the last 15 years. Look in the right places and you can find bacon candy, bacon cocktails, bacon milkshakes—there are bacon festivals and bacon magazines. Why is bacon so popular?

The obvious answer, “because it tastes good!” is a clear factor—bacon offers a unique balance of fatty, salty, and sweet flavors that humans evolved to seek out. But bacon didn’t just recently become tasty, so why the sudden surge in popularity?

In part, I think it has to do with increased availability and decreased consumer cost of bacon—nationally, large-scale pork farms are producing and selling more bacon than ever before, and local farms often sell their bacon as quickly as they can produce it. A shift in popular nutrition away from stigmatizing dietary fats and the unique nature of the internet as a medium for popularizing recipes and ideas about food are, I believe, also major factors.

Given those factors, I imagine that bacon-mania is here to stay, and local bacon is often both tastier and more sustainably raised than its nationally-distributed equivalent. Be on the lookout for locally-produced bacon at winter farmers’ markets, at local retailers, or in meat CSAs.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)