What Is Organic Bacon?
Organic bacon is bacon that is processed and prepared without chemical additives or genetically modified ingredients. The standards for what food labeled as "organic" must contain or how it must be prepared varies from place to place, and even from industry to industry. With bacon and other pork products, the organic label typically indicates a couple of different things. First, it is a warranty that the pig, while it was alive, was fed a diet of natural, unprocessed foods. Second, it says that the meat has been processed and packaged without additives, chemicals, or anything other than naturally occurring ingredients.
Food labeling practices are usually a matter of local-level regulation. Different countries have different rules for how food products can be advertised, and governments typically have the power to regulate inconsistent or confusing labels. Most of the time, whether bacon can be properly labeled as "organic bacon" depends on whether it meets a certain national criteria.
The baseline requirement for any organic pork product is that the pigs lived their whole lives without receiving any growth hormones, antibiotics, or other chemicals. Organic bacon is necessarily nitrate-free bacon — that is, bacon processed without the use of preserving nitrates and nitrites. The use of artificial ingredients or fillers is always prohibited.
In the United States and most of Europe, farms must be inspected by a government representative before they can label their products as “certified organic.” Different jurisdictions have different rules regarding how often inspections must take place, and whether or not farmers can self-certify. Companies that market their bacon as organic bacon without the proper certification will be subject to stiff fines and penalties in most places.
Adherence with a checklist is a good way to ascertain the basic source of a meat product like bacon, but it rarely gives the whole picture. Two products marked “organic bacon” might both be organic to the extent that they meet the minimum qualifications set out by the reigning government. Still, they might be very different in other ways.
Many organic bacon manufacturers also market their product as “cruelty free,” which relates to how the pigs were permitted to live on the farm and their overall quality of life. To some, organic bacon means that the pigs were themselves fed only organic vegetables and grains. Still other manufacturers count their farm’s eco-friendly practices within the scope of why their bacon is organic bacon. All of these criteria and more can add to the list of why bacon is organic, but they are not universal. Beyond the basic chemical stipulations, the specifics of what an organic ham farmer means when he uses the organic label is largely a question of interpretation.
@Terrificli -- I suspect that the taste is secondary for a lot of people. A lot of people who like organic bacon probably like the fact that it is from "cruelty free" pigs that were treated pretty well and lived on a diet of wholesome food (and that diet will affect the flavor, by the way).
I think people who buy organic bacon are interested in sending a message. If enough people buy that stuff, bacon makers will see a demand for that stuff and will start making more organic bacon. That leads to the humane treatment of pigs and all sorts of things that some people like.
Is organic bacon more expensive? Yes. Does it taste a whole lot different than regular bacon? Maybe and maybe not. Do you feel better about buying it? A lot of people would say yes and that drives a lot of the sales of organic bacon.
@Terrificli -- The full answer to your question about whether organic bacon really tastes different is a firm "maybe." If you are talking about thinly sliced bacon, then you probably won't be able to tell much difference between organic bacon and other stuff.
But all of the organic bacon I have seen falls into the more luxurious "thick cut" category and I can tell some difference. The thick cut variety of bacon lets you taste the meat a lot better because more of it is protected from the crisping, burning confines of a skillet.
The thick cut organic bacon I have had tasted a little fuller in flavor and not as salty as thick cut, regular bacon (if that makes any sense). I prefer it, but not so much that I will pay a whole lot extra for it or go out of my way to find it.
Organic bacon? I honestly don't know what difference that stuff could possibly make. I mean, think about it. Bacon is a thin piece of meat that is fried up until the stuff cracks. If it is organic, does the flavor really change that much? If it is crisp, soaked in grease and close to being burned, could the flavor between organic and regular old bacon be a whole lot different?
I'm not trying to be a wise guy here. I am really curious. I don't believe I have ever had organic bacon, but I could be wrong.
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