WEDNESDAY 22 AUGUST 2012 BRINGING HOME THE (DRY CURED) BACON
Bringing home the (dry cured) bacon
You have to hand it to the Daily Mail – the only paper that has the cheek to run a 1,000-word-plus story telling us what we already know about the bacon in our sarnie as though it were hot-off-the-press news..
Hands up, those of you who didn’t know that all processed meats carry a small danger of illness. As the paper says, Britons eat 1.5m tons of processed pig products each year, and the World Cancer Research Fund thinks there would be 4,000 fewer cases of bowel cancer each year in the UK if we cut out intake to under 2.5oz, about three rashers of bacon, a week. A Harvard study has come to more or less the same conclusion, calculating that an additional two rashers a day means that the chance of premature death is raised by about 20 percent.
All this has to do with the chemicals, some of them everyday products used for centuries to cure meats. Smoking your rasher, sausage or ham adds a small additional hazard. The best antidote to these risks is the use of common sense: eat cured meats as an occasional treat rather than your daily ration of protein and fat. Old-fashioned, superior tasting dry-cured bacon is also best for your health.
It’s as simple as that, as our ancestors knew. That’s why they survived to become our ancestors.
On the other hand, there is not only your welfare to consider, but that of the pig. There are huge ethical issues around the farming of pigs – though we can pat ourselves on the back, a little, as British pigs are raised to high welfare standards. The problem here is that less than 40% of the pig meat we eat is British.
Even European standards are poor, with males castrated (as a precaution against imaginary “boar taint” in their meat, though boar taint has long ago been bred out of most domestic pigs). The other nasty practice is keeping sows in stalls too narrow for them to turn around during their 16-week pregnancies. New European animal welfare laws that start in January will deal with most of this abuse, though it will be permitted to keep sows confined in stalls for the first 30 days of their gestation period.
Pigs, as the greatest English comic writer, P.G. Wodehouse knew, are intelligent animals, playful and curious. They suffer a good deal if confined or bored. Even in Britain sows and their new litters are regularly confined to farrowing crates to keep them from crushing their piglets. The sows get as bored as you or I would be, and as distressed.
If you don’t want to be party to these practices, you should buy your dry-cured bacon from a producer who uses only free-range pigs. It will cost a lot: the Daily Mail says that it works out at £21 a kg, whereas chemical-laden, pig-unfriendly, nasty cheap rashers can be as little as £5.79 per kg.
For the sake of your family’s heath, as well as for the wellbeing of the pig, it makes sense to buy and eat fewer rashers of better bacon and go on to enjoy it!
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