The exquisitely salty, chewy, crunchy, flavour explosion that is bacon has made this week’s announcement by the WHO one that came as a disappointment to the salty meat lovers of the world.
I wasn’t terribly surprised by the news. I’ve long heard that the sodium nitrites and nitrates used in processed meats like bacon, which help to preserve it and create that attractive blood red colour, are cancer-causing additives. But if those things are removed from bacon, would it still be cancer-causing?
I’m a little confused.
Bacon: The Man’s Man of Meat
Bacon has long been marketed as the man’s man of meats, one that bros from across the globe are purportedly entranced by; a morsel of meat so deliciously powerful that it can even reinforce a man’s gender simply by eating it. The internet this week has bee rife with witty Tweets and Facebook posts from men casting the WHO’s announcement aside in defence of their gender-given right to enjoy bacon.
Because real men don’t care about their personal health, right? That’s really more of a feminine characteristic, as can be seen by the flocks of female members of our society rushing towards the salad and yogurt aisles at the grocery store.
I hope my sarcasm is evident.
In recent years, I’ve found myself pleasantly exposed to what veganism is all about. I’ll admit that for many years I’d bought into the stigma surrounding veganism – that “they” are all opinionated hippy types whose muscles are wasting away into nothingness. But having begun to enjoy real, whole, delicious vegan food, and seeing what a vegan athlete can do, my eyes have been open to other possibilities.
I’m certainly not a vegan by any stretch, but I’ve cut back my meat and animal product consumption by about 75% of late. Will the WHO announcement push me closer toward veganism? I’m not really sure, to be honest; I don’t plan to become vegan at this point, but I must admit I’m finding the cognitive dissonance I once held between the meat I’m eating on my plate, and the experience the animal went through to get there, wearing thinner and thinner.
And while it’s primarily an ethics of cognitive dissonance for animal cruelty that’s leaving a nasty taste in the back of my throat, there’s more to the story: the majority of the meat we eat does not come from a healthy source. Take bacon for example: these pigs are injected with hormones and antibiotics, fed genetically modified feed, and are locked in teeny-tiny cages – so small that the pig cannot actually move – for their entire lifespan.
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but pigs are highly intelligent and emotional creatures with DNA very similar to ours.
Are you okay with that? I’m finding it harder and harder to be okay with it.
The Mammalian Meat Renaissance
Throughout my teenage years I lived with my dad and his Danish wife, who was heavily influenced by the Mediterranean Diet that rose to popularity in the 90s. The Mediterranean Diet brought certain kinds of so-called “healthy” fat back into our diets after the fat freakout we had in the 80s. Foods like olive oil, nuts, and fish were elevated to fame, and ridiculous things like the egg white omelet began showing up on brunch menus – like an angelic version of the otherwise devilishly yellow one.
During this time, I developed a taste for food that depended less on meat (especially red meat) – which everyone was afraid to eat.
But then in the 2000s I remember noticing that the hamburger seemed to be coming back into popularity – especially in “designer” hamburger joints. And bacon, too, seemed to be finding its way back. Maybe these things had never left? I’m not sure. But I do remember enjoying this red meat renaissance, having primarily avoided it and other saturated fats in the previous decade.
And what of red meat, anyway? The WHO pointed a long, ambiguous finger in its direction without much clarity on the subject. It was clear they meant all processed meat, but did they also mean all red meat, or just the factory-farmed, antibiotic-injected, genetically modified stuff?
The WHO itself is not above bias or shoddy-science, either. After all, they backed that same fat-phobic science that ultimately led to the birth of trans fat – another cancer-causing ingredient.
So many bacon-wrapped questions are floating about, what’s a bro to do?
3 Little Rules
Whenever I’m faced with a dilemma – food or otherwise – three little rules always help me find my footing:
- Everything in moderation.
Just like you wouldn’t sit under the sun all-day, every day, don’t eat bacon and processed meat every day.
- Listen to what your whole body tells you.
Use every part of your self to make the right decision: use your mind, your body, and your soul – rather than simply your tongue.
- Educate yourself – from many different sources.
Speak to your doctor, ask your friends, read books and articles. Take that whole world of information into yourself and give it a good digest – then make an honest, educated choice.
(I also found this article from Wired very helpful.)
Do you have any thoughts about the recent WHO announcement? Are you going to keep eating bacon and other processed meats? Tell me what you think! Do it! Seriously! Now! Bacon!