Bacon Facts & Nutritional Information

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In the US and Canada bacon, described by some as the meat of the gods, is actually a pork product usually from the pig's soft belly. Across Europe bacon is made from side and back cuts of pork. Pork side cuts have more meat and less fat than the belly. Back cut bacon may be described as fat back, which is nearly pure fat, or pork loin, which is very lean. Over 2 billion pounds of bacon are produced each year just in the US alone.

Sliced pork is cured in brine or packed in dry salt. Pork can then be further processed by: drying, smoking or boiling. Fresh bacon must be fully cooked before eating, most often by frying. But, oven and microwave cooked bacon are rising in popularity too.

The Origins of Bacon In 16th Century Europe

During the sixteenth century, bacon was called bacoun, a Middle English word referring to all pork. It is generally accepted the term bacon comes from Germanic and French dialects; the French bako, common Germanic bakkon and the Old Teutonic backe, which all refer to the back of the pig. English farmers over the centuries have bred Yorkshire and Tamworth pigs specifically for bacon.

The familiar phrase “bring home the bacon," from the twelfth century, was coined in the English town of Dunmow. The head of the church promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear, before the congregation and God, that he had not quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. His community held any husband who could “bring home the bacon” in high esteem.


The Nutrition of Bacon

What’s in bacon? Find out below.

  • Calories and Fat in bacon: a slice of cooked bacon contains 41-calories and 3-grams of fat (1-gram of that fat is saturated fat). Most bacon is considered a high-calorie, high-fat protein.
  • Protein and Carbohydrates in Bacon: similar to most meat, bacon is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. One slice of bacon contains 3-grams of protein and 0-grams of carbohydrates. Bacon protein includes all nine of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. In low-carb diets or diets utilizing the glycemic index, bacon is considered a low-carb, low-glycemic food.
  • Micronutrients: bacon is high in selenium, phosphorus and niacin. One slice contains 5-micrograms of selenium, 43.5-micrograms of phosphorus and .9-micrograms of niacin. Other bacon micronutrients present in small amounts include: potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, choline, folate (a water-soluble vitamin B), vitamin A and vitamin B12.
  • Sodium in bacon: one slice of bacon has 188-milligrams of sodium, which is 8% of the recommended daily allowance. Bacon is considered a high-sodium food and is not recommended for individuals on a low-sodium diet.
  • Other considerations: due to its high sodium and saturated fat, bacon is often considered an unhealthy food. High sodium consumption has been linked to stroke and cardiovascular disease. High saturated fat consumption has been linked to heart disease, cancer and weight gain.
  • Novelty products made with bacon usually contain other unhealthy ingredients that increase the negative health effects, such as sugar or alcohol.

Types Of Bacon Cuts

  • Bacon cut from the side of the hog or pig may be called streaky bacon. It will appear fatty with long layers of fat running parallel, or in streaks, to the rind. This is the most common cut of bacon found in the US. In Italy this is known as pancetta, which may be offered smoked or un-smoked with a stronger flavor.
  • Middle bacon, as the name suggests, is from the side of the pig. It is a less expensive cut than back bacon.
  • Back bacon, called Irish bacon or rashers in England and the British Isles and Canadian bacon, is a lean, meaty cut with less fat than other cuts. It will often have a ham like texture.
  • Cottage bacon is thinly sliced lean meat from the shoulder of the pig. It is cured, smoked and typically sold in oval shaped pieces.
  • Slab bacon has a medium to high amount of fat. It is prepared from the belly, side and back cuts of the pig.
  • Less popular cuts of bacon include: collar bacon: cut from the back of the pig near the head, hock bacon: from the hog’s ankle joint between the ham and the foot, gammon: from the hind leg, and picnic bacon from the shoulder beneath the blade.

Bacon Styles

Bacon by any name will taste as sweet. Here’s how to recognize the different kinds:

  • Canadian bacon: a thicker cut from the pork loin and resembles ham.
  • Pancetta: Italian bacon that has been dried and cured meat from the pork belly.
  • Ventreche: is a French style pancetta.
  • Prosciutto: is gourmet Italian bacon that has been dry-cured, aged and spiced.
  • Serrano: is a Spanish bacon similar to prosciutto.

Many bacon cuts on the market are flavored. Look for hickory, maple, apple wood, mesquite, homey, sugared, peppered and other gourmet delights in better markets.

Despite these negative attributes, bacon remains popular. Those individuals without serious health conditions can include a small amount of bacon in their diet when balanced with foods that are low in saturated fat and sodium.

Last Updated: November 4, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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