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What Is Organic Bacon?

For a quick lunch, use a flour tortilla to create a BLT wrap sandwich made with organic bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
Two strips of organic bacon.
Broiled scallops wrapped in organic bacon.
If pigs have a high quality of life, organic bacon can also be labelled "cruelty-free."
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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2014
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Organic bacon is bacon that is processed and prepared without chemical additives or genetically modified ingredients. The standards for what food labeled as "organic" must contain or how it must be prepared varies from place to place, and even from industry to industry. With bacon and other pork products, the organic label typically indicates a couple of different things. First, it is a warranty that the pig, while it was alive, was fed a diet of natural, unprocessed foods. Second, it says that the meat has been processed and packaged without additives, chemicals, or anything other than naturally occurring ingredients.

Food labeling practices are usually a matter of local-level regulation. Different countries have different rules for how food products can be advertised, and governments typically have the power to regulate inconsistent or confusing labels. Most of the time, whether bacon can be properly labeled as "organic bacon" depends on whether it meets a certain national criteria.

The baseline requirement for any organic pork product is that the pigs lived their whole lives without receiving any growth hormones, antibiotics, or other chemicals. Organic bacon is necessarily nitrate-free bacon — that is, bacon processed without the use of preserving nitrates and nitrites. The use of artificial ingredients or fillers is always prohibited.

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In the United States and most of Europe, farms must be inspected by a government representative before they can label their products as “certified organic.” Different jurisdictions have different rules regarding how often inspections must take place, and whether or not farmers can self-certify. Companies that market their bacon as organic bacon without the proper certification will be subject to stiff fines and penalties in most places.

Adherence with a checklist is a good way to ascertain the basic source of a meat product like bacon, but it rarely gives the whole picture. Two products marked “organic bacon” might both be organic to the extent that they meet the minimum qualifications set out by the reigning government. Still, they might be very different in other ways.

Many organic bacon manufacturers also market their product as “cruelty free,” which relates to how the pigs were permitted to live on the farm and their overall quality of life. To some, organic bacon means that the pigs were themselves fed only organic vegetables and grains. Still other manufacturers count their farm’s eco-friendly practices within the scope of why their bacon is organic bacon. All of these criteria and more can add to the list of why bacon is organic, but they are not universal. Beyond the basic chemical stipulations, the specifics of what an organic ham farmer means when he uses the organic label is largely a question of interpretation.

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