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Good news for pork industry: Bacon is health food

Posted Tuesday, May 19, 2009, at 5:27 PM

I've got good news. Actually -- great news! Bacon is a health food.

No joke.

According to a new study by Dr. Nathan Bryan of the University of Texas at the Houston Biomedical Research Center processed meats, like bacon, contain nitrates that prevent cardiovascular disease.

"Bon Appetit" magazine recently named bacon number one on their list of "Surprising Health Foods." According to the article, Jennifer McLagan, author of a book simply called "Fat," states "that 45 percent of the fat in bacon is monounsaturated, the good-for-you fat that can help lower bad cholesterol levels. Better still, bacon's monounsaturated fat turns out to be oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil. So that means that some could argue that bacon is about half as good for you as olive oil and about 100 times more delicious."

I knew all along -- really. After all how many of us knew or know of people who spent most of their lives eating bacon and eggs for breakfast and lived very long, very healthy lives.

This declaration for bacon couldn't have had better timing for the U.S. pork industry. Right now producers are losing over $20.60 per pig ($8.4 million a day) after prices dropped due to a lot of misinformation about the H1N1 virus, erroneously called the "swine flu" when it was first discovered.

The truth is pork is safe to eat, handle and does not pose a food safety threat, according to World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), along with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and several other groups.

The H1N1 virus is "different, very different from that found in pigs," according to a statement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The OIE said the H1N1 influenza should never have been named "swine flu," and that there was no justification for the imposition of worldwide trade restrictions. Fortunately, most of those have now been lifted -- as the truth finally got out.

It also was erroneously reported that the first case came from a Smithfield Foods hog operation in Mexico. On May 14, tests showed the hogs there tested negative for the virus or any other virus.

The pork industry really didn't need any more bad publicity. They've been unfairly maligned for years and painted with a broad brush because of a few bad actors.

The truth is today's U.S. pork industry is set up to protect pig and food safety. "Bio-security" is a big word they talk about often. It means they take great measures to keep all diseases away from their hog herds. The fact that they are raised inside today is one way they keep such diseases out. Producers are careful not to visit other herds and they change boots and clothes often. I remember being shocked to see one hog farm that had shelf after shelf of new boots because they change them often as part of their bio-security precautions. Hog barns are also spaced a certain distance from each other to make sure viruses are not spread between neighboring farms.

Even though it has temporarily hurt the pork industry here in the U.S. I think it is more proof that we have the safest, most abundant and cheapest food supply in the world.

It's also the reason we need to continue to make sure our food supply is raised here in the United States.

After all, in the last 10 years worldwide agriculture has had problems with "Mad-Cow" disease and avian flu. However, while globally some farmers had to get rid of whole herds and flocks, we have had few actual cases of those diseases in U.S. raised animals.

That isn't by accident. It is because of the vigilance and care taken by American farmers and the USDA. Because of that we all benefit.

As consumers, especially in a community so dependent on agriculture, I hope you all go out and buy ham, pork chops, ribs, pork roast and of course bacon today -- we can't afford to lose any more American pork producers.

After all it is "the other white meat." And now we know for sure not only does it taste good -- it's good for you.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Marcia maybe all that is missing from the pork industry's effort to push more pork is the right catchy advertising phrase. The old ones such as "the other white meat" are passe'.

How about something short, and assertive like Pork Out! A line of T-shirts with that phrase might help, sort of stealing a page from "Just Do It!" Maybe something emphathetic to our collective hard times; "You can still bring home the bacon, only $1.99 per pound at Walmart.

Perhaps the new ad campaign should take advantage of the new health news, and show a series of fit photogenic folk in exercise wear saying "I'm taken bacon!". Pushing the health card even further how about a tv ad showing emergency personell bringing out a heart attack patient on a gurney. One paramedic starts to put a nitro tab under the patient's tongue. The older more experienced paramedic beside him knocks the nitro out of the hand, whips out a slice of crispy bacon, and shoves it in the patient's mouth. The patient, chomping the bacon, jumps off the gurney, and runs down the street, leaping into the air every few steps. Fade as the patient speeds out of sight.

I am not even going to fact check the statements you reported regarding the efficacy of bacon. The reason being that I was already looking forward to putting some bacon on a sandwich with slices of those big old organic tomatoes I grow. I have felt a nagging guilt for a good many years each season when I pound them down. Now as I munch I can say to myself "Marcia said it's good for you, Marcia said it's good for you", and eat with less guilt, less remorse. Who knows, maybe I'll go ahead and devour two or three at a time this year.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 1:21 AM

OKReader: I think you have a future in the ad business. I'm looking forward to a new snack due out from Nabisco, which takes advantage of bacon's new status as a health food. It's called "Midnight Bacon" - bacon strips coated with dark chocolate, which has also attained the status of health food. They were going to call it "Bacon After Dark," but decided that might lead people to think it was only for cocktail parties.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 1:44 PM


-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 2:47 PM

Dear OKR and Kathy,

Great comments. I think OKR has a future in advertising and Kathy you can come up with the products!! Bacon and dark chocolate - I love it!


-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 6:44 PM

Hey Guys!

They already did a segment on Iron Chef on Food Network on Dark Chocolate coated Bacon. It was loved by all the guest judges.

But anything tastes good covered in Dark Chocolate!

-- Posted by salinemg on Thu, May 21, 2009, at 8:27 AM

Actually..OKR & Kathy - Vosges Haut Chocolate makes "Mo's Bacon Bar" - an chocolate bar with applewood smoked bacon, alderwood smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate. You can get them here: http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/b... for $7.50 apiece. They also make it in a pig shape. I saw them at World Market and seriously considered buying one for my bacon-obsessed family until I came to my senses about paying that much for one candy bar!!

On the other hand, at least I'm glad to know that all those bacon cheeseburgers and bacon cheese fries I ate during pregnancy were good for me & the baby!!!

-- Posted by koeller77 on Wed, Jun 3, 2009, at 1:54 PM

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