Product of the Week: Bacon
Bacon is everywhere now! It’s permeated every part of our culture. There are bacon wrapped dates, bacon-infused drinks and soups, bacon pants,, and Google is apparently working on a bacon car they are hoping to release in 2018. (Disclaimer: that is not true)
Seriously though, we just cannot get enough of the fruit of the pig! In 2015, Americans ate 1.1 BILLION servings of bacon at restaurants. To add to the craze, we purchased 864 million pounds of bacon!
Those moments of bacon joy mask the true impact and cost of our obsession with bacon.
Mo Bacon Mo Problems
The explosion of bacon in restaurants and in stores has led to a literal shitsplosion in the water and air across parts of America!
You see, pigs are grown in confined spaces called CAFOs (Contained Animal Feeding Operations) – sort of like a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare.
Why else are CAFOs bad? Well, every pound of bacon requires about 3-5.1 pounds of feed for the pig, who typically poops 63 pounds per day!
Gross, why does that matter? All that poop creates a lot of concentrated waste that spills into our waterways, too often, either by leaking or spilling from the retention ponds or being spread on farms. This then gets into drinking water and can kill fish! As if that wasn’t enough, the poop pollutes the nearby air making it unhealthy for neighbors to even breath. That stinks! It also emits greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, the poop, along with the fertilizer to grow the food for pigs also pollutes water and the atmosphere.
That bacon was well-cured in the afterlife but hated on while alive
If that’s not depressing enough, too often, the pigs aren’t treated well while they’re alive. Female pigs and their piglets are kept in small pens that sometimes lead to the female pig accidentally crushing her pigs to death. Oh, and the farm workers too often physically abuse the pigs who live in already poor conditions.
What’s Old McDonald Thinking with all that Pollution and other things?
Well, first off, Old McDonald is an idealistic caricature of a farmer from a long time ago. His descendants, however, are specialized farmers who don’t make much money thanks to the way pork and bacon companies manage their business to outsource the risk to the farmer and keeping most of the profits for themselves. Old McDonald is simply trying to get by and can’t always keep up with the pace of change and certainly can’t afford to fix everything by him or herself on the farm to meet our expectation.
How can I have my bacon and eat it, too?
For all the issues related to water and air pollution, land used to grow pig food, and the conditions in which pigs are raised, we need to remember that the pig farmer isn’t necessarily the cause of the problem, but an actor in a series of events. If you purchased certified sustainable bacon and asked your major brands to support certification of sustainable practices, the farmers would typically love to do it! You’d need to pay a bit more, but she or he would probably do it.
BTW, you typically don’t pay that much more for the green brand bacon. Less of an excuse not to buy it!
So, if you’re like Ron Swanson, and can’t get enough bacon, fork over slightly more cash, make the world a better place and follow these bacon-buying guidelines:
Green Brands: duBreton Organic Bacon, Pederson’s Farms Organic Bacon, Applegate Organic Bacon
OR buy at a local farmers market from a certified sustainable grower
Yellow Brands: Niman Ranch Bacon
Red Brands: Oscar Mayer Bacon, Smithfield Bacon, Hormel Black Label Bacon
Look for these labels for sustainable bacon:
Water and air pollution from pig farms:
If you’ve got a tough stomach, check out these videos: