Back in the late oughts, maybe early ought teens, I went through a phase wherein I consumed an inordinate amount of bacon. At the time I chalked it up to a new frying pan, but in retrospect the nation was firmly in the grips of Baconmania. I don’t look like someone who’s eaten a lot of bacon, but I was getting worried that my internals were telling a different story. So in the interest of not clogging my arteries before 30, I briefly switched to turkey bacon.
I do not recommend turkey bacon. I ate it for about a month, and it tastes okay. I mean, it’s not awful, but it’s also not bacon.
One day waiting by the microwave I’m looking at the packaging, and I’m looking at the nutrition info and ingredients, and I see that the primary ingredient is Mechanically Separated Poultry. This is where it gets interesting. I’d naively assumed that, like pig bacon, turkey bacon was just thin slices of meat from where the fuck ever on a turkey. I know turkeys are smaller than pigs, but they’re relatively large birds. “Maybe they have special genetically modified bacon turkeys that grow larger like KFC does with chickens,” I wondered to myself. Disappointingly, this proved to not be the case.
As it turns out, turkey bacon is to a turkey what hotdogs is to a pig. It’s made almost entirely from the “meat tissues” still remaining on the bone after the rest of the good stuff has been removed. These tissues and tendons are put through an industrial processor and rendered into a multipurpose slurry, then poured into a mold to look like normal bacon. Honestly what me off in the first place was the perfectly uniform marbling and shaping of every slice. I recalled from prior life experience deli meats that turkey was a sort of flat gray, and thought it was weird that every single piece of turkey bacon was an identical pink/white blend. Not so with pig bacon. Every slice is a little bit different, like a delicious greasy snowflake.
Also, I try not to be the kind of person to be like, “eww modern food is gross.” Modern industrial food production is crucial to feeding a massive population, and if we’re going to romanticize how the native Americans used every part of an animal that was killed, it’s sort of logically inconsistent to be opposed to the practice when factories do the same thing only on a larger scale. Maybe I’m biased because I know people involved with Food Science and I’m willing to take an apologist stance on these sorts of things. Sure, Googling “mechanically separated poultry” and “pink slime” yields the exact same pictures of something that looks more like a dessert than anything else, but at least that meat isn’t going to waste. This is how you solve world hunger.
I’ve still given it up, though, at least as an everyday thing. The nutrients-to-gross ratio is just not really worth it, and this comes from someone who regularly eats cricket flour protein bars. I write this not as a watchdog of pretenders to bacon’s throne, but a watchdog of things that don’t taste good. Don’t buy turkey bacon if you can help it. It’s just not very good.