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Talking Turkey Bacon

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Ashley, a BGG2WL FB page subscriber, dropped a link on the page with the following question:

i know i’ve been linkbombing these past couple of days but after reading your blog, i’m starting to see everyday “food” as a challenge to my attempt to get healthy. why does this person say that bacon is better than turkey bacon?

What’s she referring to, here? This:

Pork bacon’s got a bad rap for wreaking havoc on your cholesterol. But is turkey bacon really any better?

The Truth: Stick with the pig. As far as calories go, the difference between “healthy” turkey bacon and “fatty” pig is negligible—and depending on the slice, turkey might sometimes tip the scales a touch more. Additionally, while turkey is indeed a leaner meat, turkey bacon isn’t made from 100 percent bird: One look at the ingredients list will show a long line of suspicious additives and extras that can’t possibly add anything of nutritional value. And finally, the sodium content of the turkey bacon is actually higher than what you’ll find in the kind that oinks—so if you’re worried about your blood pressure, opting for the original version is usually the smarter move.

Eat This Instead: Regular bacon. We like Hormel Black Label and Oscar Mayer Center Cut bacon for some low-cal, low-additive options. [source]

Grrr…

My answer to Ashley included the following:

Zinczenko has a point – LOTS of turkey bacon brands out there are, in fact, still hiding pork. They’re also put together using TONS of chemicals because turkey does not have a CUT of bacon. Bacon comes from a very specific part of the pig.

Turkey bacon is just put together pieces of turkey, sometimes held together by foreign substances, and maybe even dyed a certain color to make it appear to be more like bacon.What Zinczenko fails to address, though, is that people don’t choose turkey bacon over pork bacon just for “leaner bacon.” LOTS of us choose the turkey option because WE DONT EAT PORK.

So… that being said, the rare occasion that I eat turkey bacon – literally, once a year – I buy the ONE brand I’ve found that has NO artificial chemicals or strange substances.

What? Are you shocked that turkey bacon might have pork in it? Well, why wouldn’t it? If a manufacturer knows that you’re shooting for as authentic a bacon-flavor as possible, even though you’re buying a product that doesn’t really even have a cut of bacon in it… you think they’d pass up the opportunity to put pork in it? Knowing the pork would provide the flavor you’re after?

Surely, you jest!

And speaking of flavor… if you’re buying the wrong brand of turkey bacon? Rest assured it is as unclean as any pork bacon you might find. Foreign substances all over the place are included just to accommodate that “bacon-y goodness” you might find in pork.

Turkey bacon also benefits from a bit of a “health halo” that implies “since this is poultry, not pork, it must be better for you.” Trust me – fried chicken is never “better for you” than grilled steak. The details always matter. Always.

How is turkey bacon made? I knooooow y’all hate wikipedia, buuuut:

Turkey bacon is a meat product usually prepared from smoked, chopped and reformed turkey and commonly marketed as a low-fat alternative to traditional pork bacon. While turkey bacon can be used in place of regular bacon in some dishes, it cannot be used in recipes that require the higher fat content of pork bacon.

Emphasis on the “reformed.” That means “formed into a shape similar to what you’re used to expecting from pork bacon.” Let’s be real – turkey bacon requires a lot of work.

If you’re asking me, personally? I don’t bother. The last time I had turkey bacon would be sometime in May… it’s something I could leave or take. It’s pricey, for starters, and y’all know I’m cheap. But for anyone who wants to leave the swine behind… you can do turkey bacon in a decent fashion. I hit up the grocery store and took a couple of snapshots of the last brand I had.

That’s what it looks like on the front. On the back?

“Turkey thighs, water, sea salt, raw sugar, celery powder, paprika, onion powder, spice.” 30 calories a slice, 180mg of salt per slice, .5g of fat.

Know what you’re getting yourselves into – if you want turkey bacon, go with as minimalized an ingredient list as possible. This is a great start.

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32 comments

Reecie January 3, 2011 - 4:41 PM

I read that article and certainly did smile–as a pork bacon lover. lol i actually eat the Oscar Meyer Center Cut brand they suggested, and good Lord is it expensive! but better than the fattier brands.

poitreenmoshun January 3, 2011 - 4:46 PM

*wall slide* Not my turkey bacon! Dang E. FP strikes again!

FP = Food Police 🙂

I never thought to look at the ingredients in turkey bacon. I need to start paying more attention, because obviously I’m not doing as well as I thought in the “clean eating” department. My “do better” is on level 10!!

Nicole January 3, 2011 - 4:57 PM

I actually buy this brand from whole foods. I do “cheap out” sometimes and buy the other brands. Yea, won’t be doing that anymore.

Why do I feel like when this is all said and done I will be vegan? LOL!

shimbir January 3, 2011 - 7:26 PM

The worst brand of turkey bacon is…well, let’s just say the name rhymes with “Fluttermall”–it’s extremely thin and it puffs up like fried bologna when it’s cooked!

I have a love/hate relationship with those “Eat This Not That” books that Zinczenko makes: In the wrong way, they give anyone an excuse to eat FF as long as it is “lower in calories” than their original choice without looking at other numbers (sugar, salt, fat, etc) but in the right way, they can at least help people watching calories when they are in a tight spot.

VM January 3, 2011 - 8:21 PM

I am quite the label reader, especially now, and I believe Trader Joe’s uncured turkey bacon has about the same or less ingredients as the turkey bacon above. I believe the caloric intake and amount of fat is also the same.

HT April 14, 2011 - 7:45 PM

I so agree with you Trader’s Joe have excellent turkey bacon and beef bacon
with little or no fat and no additives and chemicals. I paid $2.99 for a pack of 8 slices. since i only eat most mornings for breaksfast(oatmeal with nuts, raisins, and almond milk) at least one day out of the week I will eat my grits, range free eggs, and my turkey bacon. so you are right my girl.

BAnjeeB January 5, 2011 - 5:09 PM

I took another look at my turkey bacon and while it doesn’t contain pork, there are a few extra chemicals that I would rather not put in my body any longer.

P.S. I have been wanting to ask you about turkey bacon for awhile, but I didn’t know if you would react the same way you do to pork bacon. I didn’t want to cause you any additional stress ;-).

Erika January 5, 2011 - 5:22 PM

LOL! Someday, I’ll write about my extreme problem with “bacon.” There’s a pattern in all of my anti-bacon Weekend WTFs, though, that’d give it away. 🙂

AshBash April 20, 2013 - 11:36 AM

Soo now u have me wondering ab my beloved Dutch Market turkey bacon….smh. is it just as bad as the super processed pork dipped turkey from thegrocery stores?

Erika Nicole Kendall April 21, 2013 - 8:28 AM

Gotta check it out, girl. I don’t think I know that brand. 🙁

Pamela January 7, 2011 - 7:18 PM

I have never been a real fan of Turkey Bacon and I don’t eat pork so I was paying like $4 for beef bacon. Then one day I was reading packages and saw that a lot of Turkey Bacon is DIPPED IN PORK FAT!! What in the world? The only major brand that is not and says it on the back is Oscar Mayer Turkey Bacon. It’s as expensive as beef bacon but I do like the taste of it.

Marjorie January 8, 2011 - 9:48 AM

I’ve been eating “turkey bacon” for years. Now, I have to make sure there’s no pork in it. Thanks for the info . . .

MsPeaches43235 April 14, 2011 - 2:58 PM

Shamefully (sort of) I got a great deal on OM turkey bacon last week, $1.50/pk. It was on sale for $2.50 & had a $1 off coupon on it. Pork bacon was $3+…..

Sakika James April 14, 2011 - 3:04 PM

I don’t eat pork (so I thought) and I recently broke up with beef too….I ♥ turkey bacon because there aren’t many meat options for breakfast if you don’t eat pork or beef….I’m going to try to one of the better brands mentioned above…..I love this site….constantly learning that I’m not as healthy as I thought…..progress….thanks

Serenity May 10, 2011 - 12:55 PM

I love Facon. Tofu flavored Bacon recipe from allrecipes.com. I made some last night for this morning and it didn’t last until this morning

Jewel November 14, 2011 - 11:13 PM

Wow! I think you really need to tell the folks just how much meat you actually eat in a year. I think a lot of people are looking to you as a role model and I doubt you even eat that much(hence the reason for your anti-bacon posts).
From a loyal vegan reader 🙂

Molly November 15, 2011 - 12:24 AM

Funny. I was just thinking today about asking you about turkey bacon. My husband can’t live without the stuff. Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about hidden sugars in my food lately. Yesterday, while I was cooking the TB, I thought about how super sticky it is. Like stickier than lean chicken on a pan. This was sugar-sticky. So I looked on the back, and there it was. Now, admittedly, I have no idea if pork bacon also has sugar in it. I just assumed it was meat. That kinda thing is starting to really make me mad.

hill November 26, 2011 - 5:51 PM

Hmm, did u ever do an article on Amish markets. I purchase both turkey and hickory smoked bacon from there and I’m hoping and praying after reading about all the covert activities in our food chain…….that thier food is as natural as I think it is.

Sherrice Thomas November 27, 2011 - 9:42 AM

I wonder if turkey sausage is any better?

Annette March 26, 2012 - 1:04 PM

Well when is comes to bacon. I was more concerned about the salt. So I usually get low salt. I didn’t like the manufactured turkey bacon. I might try again I found Applegate Farms which ingredients are Organic Turkey, Water, Sea Salt, Celery Powder, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Spices, Organic Onion Powder, Lactic Acid Started Culture (Not From Milk).
Casein Free. only in my area.

Nichelle March 26, 2012 - 2:15 PM

This is brutal. I am going to try the Trader Joe’s version.

Dominique June 25, 2012 - 4:06 PM

I used to eat turkey bacon but it goes bad quicker and like you say, you don’t really know what’s in it sometimes. Turkey is not meant to be eaten in that form.

Instead, I choose center cut bacon. It has more meat than fat. Also, a serving of bacon is usually 2-3 pieces. You can have just ONE piece and still feed that craving. Another thing is how you make it. I use a bacon tray with paper towels. it soaks up most of the fat. I usually wrap it in a fresh, new paper towel AFTER it finishes cooking to remove any remaining.

Last, I love bacon as much as the next person but you don’t have to eat it all the time. That’s what makes it more special! 🙂

Pam July 3, 2012 - 6:59 PM

My son’s nickname is Yum-Yum Eat’em Up, and I can’t afford to keep him in TB. I do love turkey sausage, but the type I buy only exists at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market outside of Atlanta. They grind turkey thighs and add seasonings. It’s fresh at least twice a day. I don’t buy it weekly because we can easily over eat it, but it’s nice on the monthly. Pancake brunch.

Durkia December 27, 2012 - 5:20 PM

OMG I know this is old but this has rocked me to the core! I had no idea; I absolutely love turkey bacon! Guess I’ll be looking a little harder next time I go to the market…

Victoria February 13, 2013 - 10:34 AM

Great post! I actually just bought that brand this weekend. I looked at ingredients too and it was the easiest to read and understand.

Justin McClelland March 16, 2013 - 7:25 AM

This is such a debatable topic. With the popularity of the Paleo diet these days, bacon is nearly a staple. I’ve been eating the turkey bacon and actually prefer the taste of it over the pork bacon.

Kimyatta June 9, 2013 - 5:16 PM

One of the things I recently discovered when I thought I was doing myself a favor by getting the turkey bacon instead of the pork bacon. For more than a year now, I just got it instead because I thought I was making a better choice. Now that I’m facing a few health issues, I am making an effort to read labels while in the store. So, I compared the labels of my favorite turkey bacon and my old favorite pork bacon…and was surprised when they were NEARLY identical! The sodium content in the turkey bacon was double that of the pork version. I was floored. Switched back to the regular one. It tastes better and was cheaper!

Alicia August 9, 2013 - 10:33 PM

Wow, I’m surprised no on said anything about nitrates plus for religious purposes most skip the pork bacon. Applegate is the best..I normally cut the package in half 1. It cooks better and 2. it cuts caloric intake. If you are really eating “clean” you should consider preservatives and additives most of these have side effects we never thought of the headaches, upset GI, bloat come for stuff like sodium benzoate,sulfites, Carrageenan (normally in foods like dairy which causes bloating) including nitrates..This is more of my concern than caloric intake it’s an immediate exclusion from my diet..

DW September 3, 2013 - 2:29 PM

Not only do you have to watch the turkey bacon but the sausage too. Some brands use a pork casing. I usually use it like hamburger in spaghetti so I never eat the casing. Just happened to look at the label one day. Reading is fundamental…

linda September 19, 2013 - 5:59 PM

Heck.. I can’t afford pork bacon anymore! Been buying Turkey bacon but want it to taste like pork bacon. Tried liquid smoke, jerky seasoning, with olive oil.. eh..ok.. is there a shortage of pigs ?? Nothing like reall bacon

Karen October 29, 2013 - 4:10 PM

I just prefer the turkey. But it HAS to be Applegate Farms.

Ruth October 29, 2013 - 4:15 PM

NO WONDER!!! I never thought to check the label. Whenever I eat turkey bacon, I get a terrible belly ache. I cannot digest pork or pork based products and boy do I love my turkey bacon! No more!

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