What's it say?!? I can't read!
September 13, 2016 12:20 PM   Subscribe

In the U.S., bacon comes in packages that make the slices look lean from the front, but fatty from the back. But why?

From Paul Lukas of Uni Watch
posted by Chrysostom (57 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
But why?

Best I can tell, the article's answer mostly boils down to "Because."
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:27 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


They spent an awful lot of time coming up with kooky animations but couldn't be bothered to put a picture of the little window in the back they keep talking about in the article, for some reason.
posted by Karaage at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


I'm trying to read the article but I can't get past the piece of bacon trying to grease his way out the pack. I wish that little guy luck.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


No source contacted for this article was aware of any studies indicating whether consumers actually turn the package over and examine the rear window

I remember as a kid shopping with my mom and she'd spend a good ten minutes looking at the windows of all the packages of bacon trying to find the leanest package and tossing all the other packages aside so some poor sap who came after her would get stuck with nothing but fat. Then she'd spend the rest of the time at Stop & Shop complaining about what passes for bacon these days, how they think they can get away with such fatty bacon these days, and Jesus can you believe the price of bacon these days?
posted by bondcliff at 12:31 PM on September 13, 2016 [25 favorites]


Come for the lean, stay for the fat.
posted by kozad at 12:32 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


They spent an awful lot of time coming up with kooky animations but couldn't be bothered to put a picture of the little window in the back they keep talking about in the article, for some reason.

Here's some better pics (about half way down, or search on "bacon").
posted by Chrysostom at 12:33 PM on September 13, 2016


There are some bacon packages around here that aren't packaged like this and are just a big slab. These are generally high priced products where I guess people already know how bacon works.

Then she'd spend the rest of the time at Stop & Shop complaining about what passes for bacon these days, how they think they can get away with such fatty bacon these days, and Jesus can you believe the price of bacon these days?

I think I'd have a lot to discuss with your mom.
posted by GuyZero at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


To this day, my mother continues to trim all of the fat off of every slice of bacon that she uses. I scream inwardly every time I visit and have to witness this culinary high crime.

Me, I make my own bacon from raw pork bellies so I guess I'm That Guy in this thread.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2016 [14 favorites]




Sudden flashback to checking bacon windows with my mom.
posted by redsparkler at 12:52 PM on September 13, 2016


I remember as a kid shopping with my mom and she'd

Oh weird, I didn't know my little brother was on metafilter! How are the dogs? Did you get that thing smoothed over at work?
posted by phunniemee at 12:54 PM on September 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Round these parts we hand-make our bacon from thistles and maple twigs. But sure, go to your 'grocery store.'
posted by beerperson at 12:54 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


GuyZero- the article specifically mentions the "stack pack" method with the whole slab presented, as a newer alternative to the shingle pack.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:55 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh weird, I didn't know my little brother was on metafilter!

MOM, JOHN OUTED ME ON METAFILTER!
posted by bondcliff at 12:55 PM on September 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Come for the lean, stay for the fat.

Business in the front, party in the back.
posted by Kabanos at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


While I appreciate the flavor/texture/umami/whatever that fat gives to bacon, I still prefer leaner bacon. I'll trim larger fat chunks off just to get at least a 70% ratio of lean to fat.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I honestly have to ask - is there just one sort of bacon in the USA? Because the difference between the amount of lean and fat is whether you want back bacon or streaky (or middle, for those who can't make the choice, or medallions for those who are really trying to cut back the fat). Stack packs are generally the norm for bacon, unless you buy the dead posh stuff or shop at Waitrose.
posted by Vortisaur at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I honestly have to ask - is there just one sort of bacon in the USA?

Yes, unless you go to a high end grocer or a specialist (butcher shop? do those still exist?).
posted by indubitable at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


is there just one sort of bacon in the USA?

Back bacon is available (known as Canadian bacon) but generally not what the average American would think of cooking up for breakfast. Middle bacon is basically unheard of, that part of the pig tends to get turned into St. Louis ribs. Any sort of fatty piece of pork for larding other dishes is almost universally streaky bacon.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, I went to the fridge, and checked the store-brand package. The front has a small, one inch-tall window that allows to see most of the width, but the back is fully transparent, and you can easily pick how lean you want it.

In fact, now that I think of it, most cold cuts sold here (sliced ham, prosciutto, bacon, or other pork sausages like salpic√£o or paio) are packaged this way. Only exception are some pricier, usually spanish, brands.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:05 PM on September 13, 2016


Greg_Ace: "But why?

Best I can tell, the article's answer mostly boils down to "Because."
"

If you're boiling your bacon, you're doing it wrong.
posted by chavenet at 1:07 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


You didn't like all the fat when I fried the bacon, so I boiled it....
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:10 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you're boiling your bacon, you're doing it wrong.

Blanching bacon is actually a good idea if it's too salty, and it's frequently an initial preparation step if you're using the bacon for lardons.

We lived in Germany when I was a kid and my parents would frequently buy belly Speck and try to eat it as breakfast bacon. It was completely inedible without blanching it first, because it was so salty.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:10 PM on September 13, 2016


great timing, i just had a bacon and apple sandwich

now i want another one
posted by poffin boffin at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I honestly have to ask - is there just one sort of bacon in the USA?

Oh heavens no, there's both streaky bacon made from pork belly and jowl bacon with an even higher proportion of fat.
posted by XMLicious at 1:27 PM on September 13, 2016


now i want another one

NOT UNTIL YOU GET ME MY DONUTS
posted by beerperson at 1:34 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I highly recommend Paul Lukas's book, Inconspicuous Consumption. It's a collection of writing from his zine, Beer Frame. You can also read some of his product reviews here.
posted by lenore at 1:39 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes, Inconspicuous Consumption is great! Paul seems like maybe he's a bit difficult in real life, but he's poked into all kinds of interesting things over the years.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Boiling bacon isn't doing it wrong. Boiled bacon is the best bacon. Put just enough water in the pan to cover the bacon then cook as normal. No splatter and the texture is better. Pretty sure I learned this tip from Metafilter.
posted by painquale at 2:07 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ecch. I have yet to find a boiled (/poached/steamed/etc.) meat that I like the taste of better than or as much as the same meat broiled/roasted/fried. That goes for microwave cooking too.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why not both!

You can sous vide a standard grocery vac pack of bacon (24h, 64 C), then lightly fry the result. Bacon is tender, not stringy, while still getting crunch and browned. Not a huge issue for eggs and bacon sure, but works fabulously well for sandwiches.
posted by bonehead at 2:29 PM on September 13, 2016


Yes, unless you go to a high end grocer or a specialist (butcher shop? do those still exist?).
posted by indubitable


Yes, butcher shops still exist. Here's my local.

But since we're talking bacon, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our local, kinda famous and unspeakably delicious Benton's Bacon, whose smoky-bacony aroma is so strong I cook it outside on the grill. Yes, they mail order.
posted by workerant at 2:29 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


But why is bacon in American hotels always cooked to the point where it practically splinters when you put your fork in? Crazy.
posted by Devonian at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


you eat bacon with a fork?
posted by workerant at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Have you never encountered the full English?
posted by Devonian at 2:46 PM on September 13, 2016


I have heard of them but am skeptical about beans before noon.
posted by workerant at 2:57 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best part of my visits to Scotland is breakfasts. Streaky bacon! Black pudding! Haggis!
posted by Chrysostom at 3:15 PM on September 13, 2016


"Bacon Windows"—the disappointing follow-up to Sheena Easton's 1984 hit "Sugar Walls".
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:15 PM on September 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


But why is bacon in American hotels always cooked to the point where it practically splinters when you put your fork in?

So you can defend yourself if a shooter bursts in while you're having breakfast?

Personally, though I'd probably throw the breakfast burrito from a distance, rather than get too close and try to stab him with the bacon.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 4:07 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I did not read the article, I just came to thank Chrysostom for the post title that made me giggle. I instantly re-read it in the voice of the dog from that commercial.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:09 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Huh. I was scolded a few weeks ago by a staffer at my favorite grocery store for checking bacon windows. I had popped one open and the bacon revealed was just completely white and fatty. I know the deal with bacon is that you get the fat with the lean, but sometimes I check two or three packages before I find one that satisfies me. This is the way I shopped with my grandmother back in the 1970s, it's the way I've shopped ever since, and this was the first time I had been called out for it.

I had checked one package and was about to check a second one when he materialized out of nowhere at my left side to tell me that I couldn't open the second package and, in fact, had to buy the first one. I pointed out the perforated window, but he was having none of it. "You can't just tear the packages open," he said. I explained that the window was actually perforated because that's what shoppers were expected to do but he didn't back down. "If you do that nobody will buy the open ones," he said. I wanted to tell him that was an issue between him and his bacon supplier and not my problem, but I really like that grocery store so I told him that I was flabbergasted by his objections and put the package with the already-open window in my basket. As I walked away I stole a look back and saw him examining the perforations on the back of one of the bacon packages with a puzzled look on his face.

What I wanted to was sneak around and open up every package of bacon, or at least find the store manager to give him a piece of my mind, but I decided to chill and just enjoy my fatty, fatty bacon. And now when I go to that store I pick out a nice package of the stuff in the transparent packaging, front-and-back, and leave the (to my mind slightly tastier, but whatever) stuff in the cardboard sleeve with the window behind. I almost started an AskMe to see if I was actually out of line, but my ire quickly turned to a shrug. However, if I had known that I had the full force of the United States Department of Agriculture supporting me I might have raised a ruckus and embarrassed myself. (Best case scenario: the store manager would have blessed my bacon-opening proclivities, but one of the guys working in the meat department would hate my fucking guts forever. No thanks.)
posted by Mothlight at 4:13 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


. I had popped one open and the bacon revealed was just completely white and fatty.

Wait, I'm totally confused. The windows are transparent. You opened the packaging on a normal pack of grocery store bacon? It's literally unsellable. But you couldn't see through the packaging otherwise? I feel like I'm missing something here. And since when are the windows perforated? You don't seem to be describing the bacon packages I've been seeing my entire life.
posted by GuyZero at 4:22 PM on September 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Personally, though I'd probably throw the breakfast burrito from a distance, rather than get too close and try to stab him with the bacon.

i dunno about that, you'd really have to throw it so you get the spiral right, otherwise it will tumble and you'll just make a mess.
posted by indubitable at 4:24 PM on September 13, 2016


Personally, though I'd probably throw the breakfast burrito from a distance, rather than get too close and try to stab him with the bacon.

Ah, but what if he comes at you with a banana?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:36 PM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]



I highly recommend Paul Lukas's book, Inconspicuous Consumption. It's a collection of writing from his zine, Beer Frame. You can also read some of his product reviews here.

Paul Lukas of Beer Frame is responsible for Uni Watch? Mind blown!
posted by mwhybark at 5:11 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I honestly have to ask - is there just one sort of bacon in the USA?"

No, not at all. I sometimes buy shoulder bacon, and there are a whole variety of weird turkey and vegetarian offerings as well. And then you have variations like peppered bacon, different thicknesses, and so on.

"You can't just tear the packages open," he said. I explained that the window was actually perforated because that's what shoppers were expected to do but he didn't back down. "If you do that nobody will buy the open ones," he said.

Aren't the perforations for extracting the bacon after you buy it, not for pre-buying inspections? I certainly wouldn't buy ripped-open packages of bacon.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know if they still do it, but many bacon packages (Oscar Mayer, maybe?) had a perforated flap on the chipboard packaging outside of the sealed plastic. You could pull that back (tearing the perforation) to see more of the bacon through the plastic.
posted by nightwood at 7:28 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


The packages I've seen with "perforations" are a cardboard printed cover over sealed plastic. The perforated areas remain closed to create a smooth wrapping without openings to catch on things and tear during shipping, but allow the windows in the cardboard wrap to be opened by the shopper to check the look of the backside of the bacon in the sealed pack once the packages are in place on the store shelves. Breaking the plastic seal itself never enters into the picture.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Or on non-preview, what nightwood said in fewer words.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:32 PM on September 13, 2016


Canadian Bacon Packages of mass market bacon in Canada are the same shingle pack except we don't get the back side inspection window. Now that I know that is a thing I'm very annoyed by that state of packaging.

painquale: "Put just enough water in the pan to cover the bacon then cook as normal."

That seems like an awful lot of work when one can just toss it in a covered pan in the toaster oven and bake it like $Deity intended (cooking instructions right in the name). Done right it gets the edges crispy while still leaving the centre juicy.
posted by Mitheral at 7:32 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know if they still do it, but many bacon packages (Oscar Mayer, maybe?) had a perforated flap on the chipboard packaging outside of the sealed plastic. You could pull that back (tearing the perforation) to see more of the bacon through the plastic.

Oh like this?

And upon finding that it turns out that there's a blog with nothing but hundreds of pictures of bacon packaging.
posted by GuyZero at 9:10 PM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whoa. Somebody needs to start a whole separate thread on whether the cardboard perforations are meant to be opened by shoppers for a better look, or whether opening the perforation is antisocial and renders the package unsellable.

Personally I think the first view is insane. I cannot think of a single other product with sealed packaging meant to be opened by the shopper desiring a closer look at the goods. I would never buy one with the perforation opened. I have to admit that I can't explain why not, since the bacon itself is protected by the plastic packaging, but the fact remains.
posted by HotToddy at 9:11 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


If the cardboard perfs aren't for pre-purchase inspection, what exactly are they for then? The money quote from the Department of Agriculture: "Packages for sliced bacon that have a transparent opening shall be designed to expose, for viewing, [...]" ... for viewing. What, after you get it home? It's specifically there to evaluate the lean/fat ratio.
posted by user92371 at 9:48 PM on September 13, 2016


Tbh, the stress from looking through dozens of packages for the leanest bacon has caused me to just buy the pre-cooked stuff now. I like the uniformity of the completely false pictures on the boxes. It takes all of the guess work out of buying bacon. It's like Catholic school uniforms: Everyone is equal, and no individual is judged on appearance.
posted by exoticlikeomaha at 10:15 PM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I thought it would always be the health system that dissuaded me from trying my luck in the US job market. But apparently there are worse problems.
posted by biffa at 4:56 AM on September 14, 2016


I would never buy one with the perforation opened. I have to admit that I can't explain why not, since the bacon itself is protected by the plastic packaging, but the fact remains.

I think for me the issue would be that the opened perforation is evidence that another customer has already examined that package and decided, "No good!" So if I buy that bacon, I'm basically admitting either that I have lower standards or that I had to settle for the shitty bacon because some alpha shopper already went home with the tasty stuff.
posted by Mothlight at 7:01 AM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


some alpha shopper

has left you the tasty, tasty bacon fat. All praise to some alpha shopper.
posted by flabdablet at 8:02 AM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


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