Bacon is one of the biggest reasons people give up on becoming vegetarians. The heavenly aroma of salty, crispy, meaty bacon is simply irresistible.
Because bacon is so popular people have a lot of questions about it.
One of the most frequent questions I have seen about bacon is , “Is Bacon Just From Pigs?”
Let’s answer that!
Bacon can be made from many animals other than pigs with some of the most popular alternatives being bacon made from beef, lamb, bison and turkey.
Let’s take a closer look at the history of bacon and why bacon made from these other animals is important.
What is Bacon?
There is no strict definition of what constitutes bacon. The generally accepted definition is that bacon is a cured meat product that is sliced thin and cooked before consumption.
Historically, making bacon was a way of preserving meat with a salt cure.
When an animal was slaughtered some cuts would be eaten fresh while other cuts would be preserved for consumption at a later date. In the absence of refrigeration, the best preservation method available was to “cure” the meat by packing it in salt.
Often the salt would contain trace amounts of nitrites and nitrates, found naturally is some sea salts and salt deposits. The nitrites and nitrates were extremely beneficial in the preservation process an they killed or inhibited the growth of harmful microorganisms.
When it was time to eat the preserved meat it was sliced thin, and sometimes soaked in water, before cooking because it was so salty.
While pigs were commonly raised for meat, and thus used for bacon, so were other animals. Any time any type of animal was butchered there was a need to make some type of bacon as a way of preserving what was not quickly consumed.
There are many cultures that do not eat pork and it makes sense that their bacon would be made from other animals. The most commonly used meat to produce bacon other than pigs is beef.
Beef bacon is typically made from the belly or plate sections of the steer. It is sliced thin and with the salt and cure flavor profiles looks and tastes a lot like pork bacon when cooked.
Beef bacon is often available for sale at Walmart or other mega mart stores and is readily available to purchase online.
Bacon made from lamb is typically described as having a greater depth of flavor than pork bacon.
I have never seen lamb bacon for sale in a grocery store but it is available online from producers like Seven Sons Farms.
One thing I like about lamb bacon is that most producers raise their lambs and sheep on open pastures and not in the factory farm conditions experienced in the pork and beef industry.
Bacon made from bison is typically promoted as a heathier alternative to pork and beef bacon.
I have not seen bison bacon in stores but is available online from producers such as Sayers Brook Bison Ranch.
To build on the “healthy bacon” idea you will often seen bison bacon marketed as being “uncured” but this is complete nonsense. There is no such thing as “uncured bacon”. Bacon that is marketed as “uncured” has almost certainly been cured using nitrites from a naturally occurring source such as celery powder/juice. For more information please read “What Does Uncured Mean?“
Turkey bacon is an odd beast as its origin has absolutely nothing to do with food preservation.
The only reason turkey bacon exists is that it was created to be a healthier alternative to pork bacon. Unlike every other type of bacon, which is made from a whole muscle, turkey bacon is formed and pressed from ground turkey parts.
Don’t get me wrong, I will eat turkey bacon in a heartbeat! I am just not sure if it qualifies as being “real bacon” as opposed to a “manufactured meat product”.
Turkey bacon is extremely popular and is for sale at nearly every single grocery store I have been in for the last several years.