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Bacon as a Major Food Group

June 4, 2010

Baguette French Toast

Titled “Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction,” this classic examination of a food fad was published by The Indypendent, of which author Arun Gupta is also a founding editor. Gupta notes the increasing proliferation of pork fat in the diets of so many Americans and asks, “What’s up with that?” Gupta writes,

There’s bacon ice cream; bacon-infused vodka; deep-fried bacon; chocolate-dipped bacon; bacon-wrapped hot dogs filled with cheese (which are fried and then battered and fried again); brioche bread pudding smothered in bacon sauce; there’s hard-boiled eggs coated in mayonnaise encased in bacon — called, appropriately, the ‘heart attack snack;’ bacon salt; bacon doughnuts, cupcakes and cookies; bacon mints; ‘baconnaise…’

Adults, children, teens, and even geriatrics who can still chew and like to live dangerously, are chowing down on bacon like never before. Gupta identifies several causative factors in the bacon boom. For starters, we have a thing called a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO. In fact, we have thousands of them. The meat they produce is so bland and tasteless it might as well be tofu, but it is, Gupta says, the perfect neutrally-flavored base, on which chain eateries can build concoctions of sugar, fat, salt, chemicals, and artificial flavorings that make it highly pleasurable to eat, and possibly even addictive. Bacon itself can’t be convincingly imitated, so it has become a main dish — so pervasive, in fact — that you’d think it was a major food group.

The author goes into the historical origins of our dangerous monoculture farming practices, and there seems to be some political skullduggery involved. He explores the dark secrets of hog production, including that fact that a single Utah mega-farm has half a million hogs living on it, which manage to produce more excrement in a day than all the people in Manhattan. This by-product, mixed with other organic waste typical of pigs, is then used to fertilize crops, which we also eat.

There’s just no escape from the side effects of pork, and some of them are serious enough to qualify as environmental devastation. The violations of the Clean Water Act, to mention one example, are numerous, lightly punished, and are soon forgotten. The corporations just pay the fines and get on with their lives. And let’s not even start on the public-health implications, when so many of the same kind of animal are kept in close quarters, and their systems are flooded with antibiotics, to which opportunistic diseases quickly adapt.

Gupta describes the fast food industry as suppliers of “eatertainment,” which basically means we pay for something “highly hedonic” that makes us feel better for the duration of the experience, but we will probably get mugged in the parking lot. Fat, sugar, and salt are the (un)holy trinity of the fast-food pantheon. In fact, salt plays two roles: not only does it add zing to the taste of food, it also makes us thirsty so we’ll buy more soda pop. It’s no wonder that wars have been fought over salt!

Getting back to the bacon: Gupta reveals the amazing fact that the bacon served by a certain very well-known fast-food chain — the bacon, mind you — contains 18 different ingredients. According to Dr. David Kessler, a well-known, trademarked, multi-layered breakfast dish created by this same company consists, from the bottom up, of:

… [F]at, salt, sugar, fat and salt in the egg, then fat and salt in the cheese, fat and salt in the bacon, finished off with fat, salt and sugar.

Gupta’s call to action is an imposing one: all we need to do is “dismantle factory farming, giant food corporations and the political system that allows them to exist.” This is indeed a challenge.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction,” The Indypendent, 07/24/09
Image by avlxyz, used under its Creative Commons license.

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