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cured bacon, uncured bacon

BKchompchomp Oct 4, 2006 04:56 PM

Can anyone tell me what the difference is between cured and uncured bacon? Is one in some way better than the other or is it a matter of taste? The uncured bacon I've had seems to be cut sliced thicker. Is there a reason for that?

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  1. Robert Lauriston Oct 4, 2006 05:14 PM

    Bacon is by definition cured.

    I see that some brands of nitrite-free bacon are being sold as "uncured." The main difference I've noticed is in color.

    1. Infomaniac Oct 4, 2006 05:36 PM

      Uncured means that the bacon hasn't been cured in the traditional way using sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite to preserve the pork and keep it pink or red. Instead, the uncured versions generally use salt, lactic acid starter culture and celery juice, which is loaded with natural sodium nitrate, to create the distinctive bacon flavor.

      22 Replies
      1. re: Infomaniac
        Robert Lauriston Oct 4, 2006 06:17 PM

        Right, I'm just saying that's a misuse of the word "uncured."

        Most of the nitrite-free bacon that I've tried was cured in plain salt and then smoked over hardwood. Looks gray but once it's cooked the difference is pretty subtle.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Infomaniac Oct 4, 2006 06:33 PM

          I wasn't disagreeing with you, and I agree that the taste difference is subtle.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            Jobe1 Dec 20, 2011 09:55 AM

            It's not a misuse. It is a requirement under federal labeling laws. If a meat product is not "cured" using the chemical form of sodium nitrate, then they must label it as "uncured" regardless of whether or not some other preservation method is used. It is actually unfair to manufacturers of such meats to force them to put the word "uncured" on their products because it gives the public a negative perception that eating "uncured" meats will make you sick.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              snowman51 Dec 20, 2011 01:18 PM

              Where do you get bacon that has been "cured" with only salt and smoked?

              Unless you are immediately smoke cooking the salted pork it is unsafe to cold smoke it without a curing agent. Smoked bacon is held at approx 90 degrees to 127 degrees F for many hours or even days. In any case it isn't bacon without being cured with a nitrate or nitrite. The nitrates from celery or cherry powder are the EXACT same thing as the chemical nitrate. Commercial bacon bans the use of nitrates and requires the use of nitrites. So called natural iuncured bacon contains BANNED nitrates but because it is "natural", it is however just as unsafe as the chemical nitrate if to much remains after the cure. Since the quantity is not regulated in celery it is a crapshoot as to how much nitrate remains and also if there was enough to safely cure the bacon. Vacuum packing acutally helps botulim grow.

              Arsnic is considered a natural substance when used on organic crops! Organic and natural foods represent, in my opinion, a danger to our health as well as ability to feed everyone. Modern methods are far superior and more sustainable than organic methods of farming and processing food and meats. Sometimes organic may taste better to some people but taste is not the same as quality and safety and yields. World wide food production is more echonomical than local food production, not to mention sustainable as well as more secure from local disasters.

              1. re: snowman51
                paulj Dec 20, 2011 01:52 PM

                Beware some posts are 5 years old. Lauriston is still on Chow, but does not appear to be active on this thread. You on the other hand posted in Feb and Nov.

                1. re: sandylc
                  snowman51 Dec 21, 2011 02:45 PM

                  spelling (actually mistyped) corrected post

                  Unless you are immediately smoke cooking the salted pork it is unsafe to cold smoke it without a curing agent. Smoked bacon is held at approx. 90 degrees to 127 degrees F for many hours or even days. In any case it isn't bacon without being cured with a nitrate or nitrite. The nitrates from celery or cherry powder are the EXACT same thing as the chemical nitrate. Commercial bacon bans the use of nitrates and requires the use of nitrites. So called natural uncured bacon contains BANNED nitrates but because it is "natural", it is however just as unsafe as the chemical nitrate if to much remains after the cure. Since the quantity is not regulated in celery it is a crapshoot as to how much nitrate remains and also if there was enough to safely cure the bacon. Vacuum packing actually helps botulin grow.
                  Arsenic is considered a natural substance when used on organic crops! Organic and natural foods represent, in my opinion, a danger to our health as well as ability to feed everyone. Modern methods are far superior and more sustainable than organic methods of farming and processing food and meats. Sometimes organic may taste better to some people but taste is not the same as quality and safety and yields. World wide food production is more economical than local food production, not to mention sustainable as well as more secure from local disasters.

                  1. re: snowman51
                    sandylc Dec 21, 2011 03:27 PM

                    That is interesting.

                    1. re: snowman51
                      Jobe1 Dec 23, 2011 09:15 AM

                      So you're in favor of the use of cheap fertilizers made from toxic waste that contain heavy metals and other contaminants that get into the soil and eventually render it useless? You must also be in favor of GMO's that lead to herbicide resistant weeds and pesticide resistant insects. The same GMO's also make it much more expensive for farmers by extracting a technology fee every season instead of allowing farmers to save seed from last years crop. How about the practice of "no waste" farming? The practice where the feces of animals is collected and put into pig feed or the carcasses of dead animals ground up and recycled as feed. This is why we have outbreaks of ecoli from our meat packing plants and salmonella from plant based foods and outbreaks of swine flu crossing over from pigs to humans. It is "modern" farming practices that CAUSE most food borne illness.

                      1. re: Jobe1
                        paulj Dec 23, 2011 09:34 AM

                        I'm curious Jobe1, what brought you here, and to this thread in particular?

                        Speaking of 'no waste farming' - look up 'Jeju dung pigs' sometime. :)

                        1. re: paulj
                          Jobe1 Dec 23, 2011 10:07 AM

                          With all the illnesses transmitted by fecal matter, the last thing you want to be doing is gathering dung from chickens, pigs, cows, goats, and other animals and feeding it to another animal whose meat, milk, or other products is going to be used to feed humans. That's how people get sick because all the bacteria from animals mixes together and shares DNA and creates new strains. That's how flu viruses evolve and become more lethal or cross the species barrier.

                          1. re: Jobe1
                            paulj Dec 23, 2011 11:44 AM

                            How does a modern certified organic pig diet compare to a more traditional (pre industrial) diet?

                            1. re: paulj
                              Jobe1 Dec 23, 2011 01:47 PM

                              What do you mean? Usually organic meat animals are raised on pasture like they would eat naturally instead of being fed a diet that they wouldn't normally eat. Beef cows aren't supposed to be corn fed, they are supposed to graze on pasture land, and although pigs will eat just about anything you put in front of them, that does not necessarily mean it is good for them to do so. Organic pork is also made from pigs that are pasture fed grass without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They aren't fed slop like on conventional farms. Here is an example of what I mean


                              So I would rather eat pork from this farm than from a "modern" "factory farm".

                              1. re: Jobe1
                                paulj Dec 23, 2011 05:58 PM

                                Wouldn't you rather eat this one?


                                "Our pigs range at large foraging for their natural food. They graze grass just like cattle. Most of what they eat is grass, forbes, and leaves of trees. But they also eat grubs, roots, acorns, berries, fruits (acorns, berries, and fruits are strickly seasonal), eggs, critters of all kinds, and about anything else they come across in the pastures and woods where they live. "

                                1. re: paulj
                                  Jobe1 Dec 24, 2011 03:31 AM

                                  That's no different than the one I linked to. They are eating their natural diet rather than whatever is put in front of them.

                                2. re: Jobe1
                                  paulj Dec 23, 2011 08:16 PM

                                  How about a pig from this 2000 yr old Chinese pig sty?

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    Jobe1 Dec 24, 2011 03:32 AM

                                    Given the things that humans eat these days and the diseases people carry (which we know are communicable to other humans), I'd rather not eat from any animal that eats human feces. Thousands of years ago they didn't know how diseases spread so letting pigs eat human waste was acceptable, today it is not.

                      2. re: snowman51
                        Robert Lauriston Feb 4, 2013 08:16 AM

                        It's probably because I live in Berkeley, but I went to the store to buy bacon the other day and of five kinds only one was normal bacon. The rest were turkey products and/or cured with celery juice.

                        I don't like the celery-cured stuff because it doesn't last as long and I've had to throw it out.

                    2. re: Infomaniac
                      meatscienceguy Feb 18, 2010 11:39 AM

                      That's partially true, but do you know the full/real story? This is a technology that none of the meat processors want. They are doing it, because under-educated consumer groups are forcing it. The real reason that none of the meat processors want to do it is that it ultimately makes the products more dangerous for the consumer... not more healthy.

                      That "natural" nitrate in the celery - well it gets there by both natural means (the plant makes it) as well as engineered ways (they spray fertilizer on the field just before harvest, and that has tons of nitrate in it). The meat processors like it that way, because they need the high nitrate level. You see, the starter culture is bacteria - normally Staphilococcus carnosus and/or Micrococcus variens or Staph. xylosus, or other strains which produce the chemical Nitrate Reductase. The bacteria grow, produce the chemical, which cuts the nitrate to nitrite... the exact same chemical compound that all the nature lovers think is going to kill them. Now, pay attention here boys and girls, because here is where it gets fun. Most of the nitrite is used up to make the red/cured color - nitrosohemochrome. But a little remains - (around 10-30ppm in normally cured products and only about 5ppm in "uncured" or "naturally cured" products). That 10-30ppm amount is critical for keeping the food safe, because it kills the bad bacteria (pathogens) - especially especially Clostridium botulinum (Botulism)(nasty stuff). But these "uncured" "naturally cured" products have too low a residual nitrite level - around 5ppm, which makes them a walking time bomb for botulism, Lysteria, E coli, etc. Mark my words ladies and germs... punn intended... though this is not a funny subject... someone is going to die before we can all get back to doing what we (the meat industry) want - making good, wholesome food.

                      1. re: meatscienceguy
                        mwsmokin Jul 20, 2010 01:17 PM

                        Hmmm... What about all of the studies that show that exposure to excess Nitrates/Nitrites cause cancer? I'm not sure about you but I think I'll watch my food properly and buy from providers that take the time to do it right without using the nitrate and look forward to knowing where my food comes from and how it has been handled from the field to the plate.

                        1. re: meatscienceguy
                          itsmekimmielc Jan 15, 2011 05:11 PM

                          Thanks so much for all the continued discussion on this topic. I started buying 'uncured' bacon because I thought the nitrate/nitrite free sounded better... but i am educating myself more and more on food science and production and, sigh, marketing. Basically from what I read here, Uncured is a marketing word, or a regulation word that means the meat was cured using different methods than is usually used in commercial processing.

                          I found myself here after googling "What is uncured bacon?", because a friend of mine who works with 4H and farmers and meat producers said 'uncured' bacon is not possible, bacon is by definition cured. So that got us wondering what the uncured bacon labelling was all about. I definitely have learned so much just reading this thread and wanted to thank all who posted. I will be following up on all the links also that have been listed. Education happens one person at a time!

                          1. re: itsmekimmielc
                            Chowrin Jan 20, 2011 06:47 AM

                            huzzah! someone who thought to think! ;-)

                          2. re: meatscienceguy
                            maxine2328 Nov 7, 2011 11:14 PM

                            Someone is going to die for not eating commercially cured bacon? And we're supposed to trust the meat industry to give us good, wholesome food??
                            Please.. I'll take my chances with a natural product any day over a product that has been commercially or artificially processed. And not for one second do I believe that the meat industry's commercial processing is to make a product more safe for the consumer. Not a chance! It all comes down to fattening the bottom line for the food manufacturer and the retailer by increasing shelf life.
                            "Uncured" or naturally cured bacon has a milder flavor, it is less salty, and is usually a higher quality meat containing less fat. It is what nature intended for our bodies. Like all meats, cook thoroughly and store properly at the correct temperatures.
                            Sorry Mr. MeatScienceGuy.. you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time.. but you can't fool all the people all the time.

                        2. b
                          BKchompchomp Oct 4, 2006 07:34 PM

                          I had thought bacon was always cured, which was part of what was so confusing to me. Is the thought that "uncured" bacon is better for you because of the natural source of sodium nitrate?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: BKchompchomp
                            Glencora Oct 4, 2006 07:39 PM

                            I assume so. I've read that the natural source comes from celery, of all things.

                            1. re: Glencora
                              Robert Lauriston Oct 4, 2006 08:33 PM

                              The notion is that nitrites are bad so nitrite-free bacon is better. Sodium nitrite's chemical properties aren't dependent on its source.

                            2. re: BKchompchomp
                              meatscienceguy Feb 18, 2010 11:44 AM

                              No. Nitrate is nitrate. It is a chemical, plain and simple. Nitrate is of no use in and of itself in the bacon/ham. It must be broken down to nitrite, so that the nitrite can then combine with the meat color protein Myoglobin, be heated and form nitrosohemochrome - the cured pink color. Naturally cured (uncured) meat products are more dangerous than regularly cured meats, because you actually want a controlled amount of nitrite in the finished product, so that bad bacteria can't grow. "uncured" products really aren't uncured. They still have residual nitrite in them. It is just too low - about 5ppm, compared to a normally cured one which has 10-30ppm. Because it is too low, they products are at high risk of growth of pathogens - the bacteria that kill you.

                            3. babette feasts Oct 5, 2006 01:15 AM

                              Isn't the confusion the FDA requiring non-nitrate/ite bacon to be labeled as uncured? Gotta warn the public somehow that something without enough chemicals might kill 'em....

                              28 Replies
                              1. re: babette feasts
                                Robert Lauriston Oct 5, 2006 01:26 AM

                                You mean the USDA? I haven't seen it labeled that way, is that a new rule?

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  Glencora Oct 5, 2006 02:53 AM

                                  I don't think so. I don't think they're warning people, I think they're reassuring them. I have a Niman Ranch box that says it has no nitrate or nitrite added. Nothing about a USDA warning. And, Robert, I understand that no nitrates ADDED means that some may be naturally occuring in the celery juice listed in the ingredient list and I understand that there may be no difference chemically speaking. But if the naturally occuring stuff isn't better than the artifical then what is the point of changing? There must be some point, right?

                                  1. re: Glencora
                                    JMF Oct 5, 2006 01:54 PM

                                    Basically the only point is marketing to uneducated consumers who heard back in the late 70's that sodium nitrite was "bad". The level of sodium nitrite used in curing meats is below the FDA recommended level, which you would have to multiply 10,000 times to be dangerous. Way before this time you would die, not from nitrite poisoning, but from dehydration from too much salt.

                                    1. re: Glencora
                                      meatscienceguy Feb 18, 2010 11:50 AM

                                      I am a food scientist. My masters degree is in meat science. I have 4 children. I would never allow them to eat these "uncured" or "naturally cured" products. The real issue is that we need just a little nitrite in the meat to keep the pathogens from contaminating the meat... and killing people. These uncured products are actually cured (they have nitrite in them), but they do not have enough nitrite left to protect them. Plus, the process to get to the nitrite is completely out of control, relying on waking up the bacteria, having them produce a chemical (nitrate reductase) and then that chemical breaking the nitrate to nitrite. It is uncontrolled. For this reason, none of the US meat processors want to do this. But, the under-educated consumer groups are forcing this whole "natural" movement. It is no more natural that just adding nitrite. In fact, when you add nitrite, you can control the process and make a safer product.

                                      1. re: meatscienceguy
                                        JuniorBalloon Feb 27, 2011 08:30 AM

                                        It is my understanding that nitrATES are not a part of the bacon curing process. Only nitrITES are used. Celery contains naturally occuring nitrITES and that is why it's used in so called "nitrITE free" cured meats. I'm very skeptical of the notion that farmers are spraying a nitrATE rich concoction on their celery, nitrATES are a common part of all fertilizer, chemical or organic. It is also my understanding that celery nitrITE is identical to nitrITE found in Pink Salt, or Cure #1 which is a common curing additive that is 6.25% nitrITE, the rest is salt. One of the big differences between using Pink Salt or celery is the control you have in the amount of nitrITE used. Celery is less precise. Even still I highly doubt the products labled nitrITE free are dangerous. I also am not afraid of eating the cured products that contain Pink Salt as a spinach salad has more nitrITE than an entire cured salami. The purpose of the nitrITE in bacon is to retard the growth of bad bacteria. A side effect of using Pink Salt is the pinker color and a distinctive flavor we've all come to associate with bacon.

                                        NitrATES are used in curing meat that will be hung for an extended drying period such as Salami. The recipes for Salami call for using Cure#2 or "Prague Powder #2". It is a combination of nitrITE and nitrATE. The nitrATE breaks down over time into nitrITE and works like time release to prevent bad bacteria from growing during the long curing process. So in the end prodcut there is very little if any nitrATE.

                                        I'm sorry for the caps every time I used the words nitrite and nitrate, but they are so often misued and confused. I am not a scientist. I am learning how to cure meat at home. I've been doing a lot of reading and just finished making pancetta that hung in my curing chamber at 60 degrees and 60% humidity for 14 days. Ate some last night in clams and linguine and it didnt' make me sick. On the contrary it was very tasty.

                                        Still I am always learning and look forward to further edification.

                                        EDIT: I found more information on the nitrate content in celery and it does indeed work more like Cure #2 than I had previously thought. I'm still skeptical that farmers are spraying something other than fertilizer to incerase the nitrate content of celery or any other veggie. Here's an interesting article on the color of meat. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/04/din...

                                        1. re: meatscienceguy
                                          sandylc Nov 20, 2011 08:43 PM

                                          Gee, so what about all of the meat that isn't cured at all? Is it instant death? You do not make sense!!

                                          1. re: sandylc
                                            rottenapple Nov 21, 2011 03:03 AM

                                            Eating uncured meat will cause you to instantly explode! Quite messy. :)

                                            1. re: rottenapple
                                              magicdave Nov 21, 2011 05:40 AM

                                              I saw that happen once. It left a crater in the ground as big as a bus.

                                            2. re: sandylc
                                              trombasteve Nov 23, 2011 04:50 AM

                                              Actually, he makes complete sense, but not all of the necessary information has been stated here, yet. The bacteria that produce the botulism poison (by some standards, the most toxic substance on earth) thrive in protein-rich, and low-oxygen environments. The bacteria themselves are present and persistent almost everywhere, but only start to actively reproduce (and produce the botulism toxin) in advantageous environments.

                                              Any commercial meat that has been smoked, or preserved using any dry method (hanging, mostly, like salami, or ham, or prosciutto, etc.) must have a small amount of some form of sodium nitrate/nitrite added to prevent botulism poisoning. Some (in my opinion, irresponsible and unscrupulous) meat producers are marketing "nitrate-free" prepared meats, which do contain nitrates (since anything else would be illegal for public sale, and very dangerous), but derive them from celery seeds, and label them as "spices" rather than "sodium nitrate". They get away with this since the necessity of nitrates in preserved meat isn't well-understood by the public at large.

                                              Meats that haven't been preserved using one of those methods (so, roasts, or stews, or steaks, or whatever) don't need nitrates, so there's no risk of "instant death." Bacon isn't one of those foods, though.

                                              1. re: trombasteve
                                                paulj Nov 23, 2011 07:45 PM

                                                From Wikipedia botulism article (using CDC sources):

                                                160 botulism 'events' in 1990-2000
                                                58 of those occurred in Alaska, " all of which were attributable to traditional Alaska aboriginal foods". I heard elsewhere that some Native Alaskans have a tradition of burying meat (such as whale or seal), and letting it 'ripen'. But in recent years some tried wrapping it in plastic instead of the traditional skins, producing the anaerobic conditions favored by the botulism bacteria.

                                                In the lower 48, home canning was implicated in most cases.

                                                This CDC article says that botulism was first described in consumers of Eastern European sausages in the 18th c. It also occurred in commercially canned food, until that method was perfected.

                                                in this table, there are more cases of botulism in restaurant prepared food than in commercially prepared food. Bacon does not appear on the list.

                                                1. re: paulj
                                                  rottenapple Nov 24, 2011 03:33 AM

                                                  In the Spanish-American War, the greatest number of casualties came from Hormel canned meats, not from bullets. My youth was spent eating home prepared foods, but the only case of food poisoning I had as a child was from a commercially prepared hot dog. All the later cases of food poisoning I had (five) were from commercially prepared foods as well.

                                                  1. re: rottenapple
                                                    magicdave Nov 24, 2011 04:41 AM

                                                    Thanks for the great points. It was enjoyable discussing "stuff" with you. I am not going to continue beating this dead horse with people that must be right no matter what so I decided to stop discussing points about the rarest form of food borne illness here. I appreciate you additions to the discussion. It has been a pleasure my friend.

                                                    1. re: magicdave
                                                      rottenapple Nov 24, 2011 04:48 AM

                                                      Me too. Though my "expertise" is only from my own informal studies and personal experiences (vomiting being well-learned lessons! lol). While I know little on the formal chemical aspects of curing bacon, I do know that me and my ancestors seem to have survived the apparently suicidal techniques of preparing foods. :)

                                                    2. re: rottenapple
                                                      paulj Nov 24, 2011 11:16 AM

                                                      More on that Spanish American war beef scandal
                                                      Looks like it had more to with companies cutting corners and lack of supervision, than state of the art canning methods of the time. Note also that this was before the FDA.

                                                      1. re: paulj
                                                        rottenapple Nov 24, 2011 12:44 PM

                                                        The FDA and the USDA has had little effect on stopping the large companies from cutting corners. Note how the recent scandal concerning McDonald's and Target's egg supplier was a result of an independent undercover activist and not any government agency. Also, note how so many food poisoning epedimics involve large agri-farming enterprises and how the USDA and FDA's response is always to make it harder on the small scale (and most especially organic) industry. Both agencies have such a revolving door policy with the large agri companies. Once the FDA left their initial realm of forcing people to put labels on their products, they immedietly became the enemy of the non-corporate farming enteprises.

                                                    3. re: paulj
                                                      magicdave Nov 24, 2011 04:37 AM

                                                      Restaurant prepared food IS commercially prepared food. You seem to have an unwarranted fear of botulism as though it is a rampant problem which it is not. You seem to have some sort of problem but the following was cut, copied and pasted from one of the links your posted:
                                                      "Foodborne botulism is a rare illness caused by eating foods contaminated with botulinum toxin."

                                                      You can actually see what the article you posted states. IT IS A RARE ILLNESS.
                                                      Like I mentioned in an earlier post. My father practiced medicine for 55 years in rural upstate NY and there were never any cases of botulism. The most common form of botulism in the US and elsewhere around the world is infants and not adults. Mainstream medicine suggest that it is because infants have not had enough time to develop their immunological intestinal flora sufficiently to fight it off. I don't mean to scare you but ingestion of botulism spores probably happens every day of your life. Next time you are googling "stuff" about food borne illness in the US or worldwide look at an important statistic that you obviously purposely avoided mentioning. Botulism is the least common "food borne" illness worldwide. It is RARE but you make it sound as if it is an epidemic and it is clearly not.
                                                      You can post more on this subject but I am finished beating this dead horse.

                                                      1. re: magicdave
                                                        paulj Nov 24, 2011 08:39 AM

                                                        How did I make sound like an epidemic? I simply gave some numbers, without exaggeration or use of words like 'frequent', 'widespread', or even 'epidemic' etc. It didn't occur to me that anyone would interpret the numbers as you did. Notice, that in the context of this thread, I noted that bacon was not implicated.

                                                        And the distinction between 'commercial' and 'restaurant prepared' is one made by the CDC article.

                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                          rottenapple Nov 24, 2011 12:46 PM

                                                          While the CDC may make the distinction, all of the large chain restaurants basically use a TV dinner method of preparing meals. Once you get past the small family owned restaurant's, you no longer have real cooking or real food anymore. Not arguing, merely pointing out.

                                                      2. re: paulj
                                                        Jobe1 Feb 5, 2013 02:05 AM

                                                        The problem with botulism related to home canning is in the fact that many people who practice home canning still do not own a pressure canner. A pressure canner is essential to successful home canning these days. It is the only guarantee you have that whatever you are canning has been heated to the proper temperature to kill off any active bacteria and that a truly airtight seal is achieved. Another problem is that some people also still do not understand that the lids can only be used once then have to be replaced because the rubber seal deforms after the first use and is no longer airtight. Using a pressure canner and discarding used lids after the first use would probably eliminate the vast majority of cases of botulism involving home canners.

                                            3. re: babette feasts
                                              JMF Oct 5, 2006 01:51 PM

                                              Yes... something without enough chemicals will kill you... in this case the chemicals... Sodium Chloride (table salt) and Sodium Nitrite (just another type of salt)... are absolutely necessary to kill dangerous bacteria. Nitrites used in the quantities needed for curing are not only absolutely harmless, they are in smaller quantities than the body MAKES itself to use in the digestive system to kill bacteria. "Uncured" bacon is still cured with chemicals... sodium chloride, and substances that contain sodium nitite.

                                              1. re: JMF
                                                meatscienceguy Feb 18, 2010 11:55 AM

                                                Give that man a prize. He is getting close. The only chemical which cures is Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2). You add celery, which has Sodium Nitrate (NaNO3). Then, you grow up the starter culture bacteria, they produce nitrate reductase, which then breaks the nitrate to nitrite. It's a silly process. It's a dangerous process, because the growth of the bacteria in the meat is poorly controlled versus doing it in a lab setting (invivo vs invitro). Folks are going to get sick and die. And, then everyone is going to blame the big old bad meat industry.

                                                1. re: meatscienceguy
                                                  tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 26, 2010 09:15 PM

                                                  I'm not a food scientist, but I am a scientist. And I agree that a chemical is a chemical, no matter where it comes from. I think I'd go with a well calibrated chemical process rather than the uncertainty of the celery method, the same way I grab a bottle of asprin when I have a headache, rather than peeling off some willow bark.

                                                  I think what people sometimes forget is that preservatives/preservation in general was designed as a way to store products without getting seriously ill or dying from food born illness. There are tradeoffs - things like a decrease in vitamins in preserved vegetables and fruit, or an increased salt consumption. But these were lesser evils compared to food poisoning from rotten food, serious illnesses contracted from contaminated goods, or dying of starvation during a long winter.

                                                  Now mind you, I'm not a fan of ultra processed foods in general, and I think that the concept of stripping out most of the natural nutrients from a food in processing, artificially adding some of them back in, and calling it something like "Wonder Bread" is an affront to both taste and health. But I'm not going to pretend that bacon, or pickles, or cheese are an unprocessed food in the first place.

                                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                    rottenapple Nov 19, 2011 10:26 AM

                                                    While I agree with you and science guy on the nitrite amounts, however I disagree strongly on the "chemical is a chemical'. For just one example, synthetic vitamin c increases the risk of cancer in smokers, while natural vitamin c decreases the risk. Also, processed foods have almost no nutritional/taste value at all. Properly canned foods, well-raised hogs, etc., will do more to decrease the risk of botulism than anything else. Am I a scientist? No. I sat on my butt and got my degree in history, instead of sitting on my butt and getting the same worthless piece of paper in another subject. Also, if you've ever eaten real cheese, versus the junk we find in stores in the us, or pickles, or bacon (as cured by a conscientious farmer/butcher) then our modern methods are obviously an affront to our health and taste. If one has raised their hogs properly, slaughtered them properly (which also includes the season in which you slaughter), and practise common sense, the "natural" (a term destroyed by the food industry) method is safer and tastier, not to mention more nutritious.

                                              2. re: babette feasts
                                                pitterpatter Oct 5, 2006 02:25 PM

                                                "Uncured" is indeed required on the front of the packaging on all bacon and coldcut products that do not contain nitrites or nitrates. I don't remember if this is FDA or USDA mandated. What I do know is that the lack of nitrates is compensated for by adding more regular sodium. Some of these uncured products are so salty they make my mouth burn.

                                                1. re: pitterpatter
                                                  magicdave Nov 19, 2011 11:42 AM

                                                  Find a better brand. I have never found the sodium content in any of the "uncured" pork products I buy to be higher than the "cured" products. I stayed out of the lunacy promoted here by the "food experts." I am not a "food scientist" but I am well educated in chemistry. I do agree that "chemicals are chemicals" is also a crock of excrement. In some cases that is true but specifically comparing celery juice to food grade sodium nitrite is a prime example.
                                                  "The nitrites in our products occur when the nitrates in the celery powder and sea salt react with lactic acid starter culture and convert into nitrites. Without these natural nitrites our uncured products would be gray.
                                                  Conventional companies use synthetic sodium nitrite to cure their products. According to the Food Chemical Codex (3rd addition, National Academy of Sciences), industrial sodium nitrite is allowed to contain residual heavy metals, arsenic and lead.
                                                  While some may say, “nitrites are nitrites,” those derived from celery juice and sea salt are clearly different!"
                                                  Nitrites derived from celery powder are much cleaner than even food grade poison used by the "big boys." To suggest that there is no difference and that meats are "safer" when treated with synthetic sodium nitrite is just not true. Earlier I mentioned that I am not a "food scientist" but I am a nutritionist with over 40 years experience. I would not eat "cured" pork products because I am not interested in depositing heavy metals in my body on purpose. All nitrites break down into nitrates through oxidation anyway so both types have some albeit minuscule amounts of nitrates.

                                                  1. re: magicdave
                                                    paulj Nov 19, 2011 12:27 PM

                                                    Food grade sodium nitrite has < 1ppm Pb

                                                    What's the Pb level in your favorite sea salt?

                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                      magicdave Nov 19, 2011 06:51 PM

                                                      Chloride 50.6%, Sodium 35.5%, Magnesium .429%, Calcium .3150%, Strontium .00864%, Copper .000525%, Selenium .00029%, Manganese .00017%

                                                      ZERO ppm Pb in my sea salt.

                                                      1. re: magicdave
                                                        paulj Nov 20, 2011 10:03 AM

                                                        What is the other 13.146379% of your sea salt?

                                                        According to one brand of sea salt that seeks to distinguish itself by having a 'purer source' (Central America), the Pb level in other sea salts (esp. from Europe) is in the 1 to 0.1 ppm range.

                                                        In conventional bacon, what's salt content and the nitrite content?

                                              3. Glencora Oct 5, 2006 04:50 PM

                                                Thanks for all this information. I'm really surprised. I'm trying to limit salt, so I'll keep all this in mind.

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: Glencora
                                                  magicdave Nov 19, 2011 12:07 PM

                                                  The difference in sodium between "cured and uncured" meats is negligible. Read some labels next time you are in the meat aisle.

                                                  1. re: Glencora
                                                    rottenapple Nov 19, 2011 03:24 PM

                                                    Just to help you stay confused :), I have recently read that the earlier beliefs concerning salt intake and heart attacks are backwards. Apparently now more salt is better. Sort of like how they used to say eggs were bad (the ones in the store are!). Basically, the more we learn, the less we know. My concern in this entire discussion wouldn't be the nitrites, it would be how were the hogs raised? What are the conditions in the slaughterhouse? And so on, and so on. I wouldn't eat anything out of a grocery store if I could help it. All of the antibiotics, gmo food they are fed , horrific stress from living conditions, etc. are of far greater importance to your health than the level of nitrite in the bacon. Unfortunately, the major flaw of the scientific method is it's retarded. There are always tons of factors involved in every situation, and the scientific method treats them all as seperate factors. Basically, if you didn't raise it, or know who did raise it, then the nitrite question is moot. After all, do you really trust the USDA or FDA? Most of our botulism cases come from the big agri people. Spinach with E. Coli? Only when you have Big Agri. Know where your meat comes from. That is far more important than anything else. If it is a hog raised in a cage, reject it. Sorry for the rant, but I thought this thread was losing it's way, so I figured I'd help it stay lost! lol

                                                    1. re: rottenapple
                                                      paulj Nov 19, 2011 03:42 PM

                                                      You should take that 'more salt is better' claim with a big grain of salt. Yes there was a study in Europe in which participants with a higher salt level (in a one time urine sample I believe) had better health over the study period (lower heart attacks?). But they did not study the upper limits of healthy salt intake, or the sensitivity of various people to salt. For many (maybe most) of us, there's a range of salt in take that is relatively healthy. There are some who particularly slat sensitive - to either too low salt, or too high.

                                                      As for botulism and E. Coli from big producers - those are just the cases that make national news. Small producers are not immune from these problems, they just not make the news. Home canners are warned, repeatedly, about the dangers of botulism.

                                                      1. re: paulj
                                                        magicdave Nov 19, 2011 06:43 PM

                                                        The other problem with a cardio-vascular study in Europe is that they don't consume temperate vegetable oils made from grains in the quantities as here in the US where soybean oil is king. There is a direct correlation between the rise in the use of vegetable oils made from grain and soybeans to heart disease after WWII. Before then tropical oils were used extensively in this country. The soybean industry ran propaganda dds that were backed up with badly conducted studies paid for by them to scare Americans away from tropical oil which are much healthier than temperate oils. The incidence of botulism and E. Coli from small producers is minuscule compared to the frequency of big producers. The potential for wide spread outbreaks is exponentially higher too.

                                                        1. re: magicdave
                                                          Jobe1 Feb 5, 2013 02:18 AM

                                                          This is true. In southeast Asia and the Pacific islands the only fats and oils they use for cooking come from either animals or from the local fauna. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil, the big two "evil" oils that have been virtually banished from the western diet, make up most of the cooking oil they use and they have a much lower rate of heart disease than we have here in the US in spite of the high levels of saturated fats and they tend to be thinner as well. Baked goods sold in this country haven't been the same since the big bakeries all stopped using coconut oil back in the early 80's. Coconut oil adds a nice flavor to baked goods that can't be duplicated by any other oil. Another fat that has been virtually eliminated is lard. For making flaky pastry, you simply cannot beat lard and the beef tallow that McDonald's used to cook their fries in imparted a nice beefy taste to the fries that complimented the hamburgers. They took away all of the tasty oils and fats and replaced them with ones that contained trans fats which we later found out was causing more heart and arterial disease than the oils and fats we were using before and none of them tasted as good.

                                                        2. re: paulj
                                                          rottenapple Nov 19, 2011 07:52 PM

                                                          I eat a good amount of salt, just as I never stopped eating eggs. Personally, I don't think our study methods are usually conducted under the most primitive of standards. There are far too many variables that are never taken into account. As for the home canning, I grew up eating those foods, and the only time I had food poisoning was from eating a commercially prepared hot dog. Those have gotten better now, but the meat industry is completely ate up in my opinion. It's gotten so bad that I have gone vegetarian before, not because of any ethical concerns, but because the meat tastes like c**p. While there are no doubt a slew of incompetent home canners out there, they are only harming themselves. It is a shame we can't expect, what we should be able to expect, from the big producers; and that is professionalism. Not just the slaughter houses, but the factory farmers as well. They impact far more people than any home canner ever will, and should be held to a higher standard.

                                                          1. re: rottenapple
                                                            magicdave Nov 19, 2011 09:42 PM

                                                            I eat lots of eggs with salt on them too. I make my own mayonnaise with extra yolks LOL I have never listened to any of that bullshit about salt and cholesterol. Too much sodium is not good for you but and there are some people that should be carefull but they blow it all out of proportion for most people. It's baloney. I do eat meat although I don't buy it in a grocery store. :-) I buy some cheeses and some dairy products at the grocery store but chickens, eggs, and red meats come from the people that raise them. I have known all of them for a very long time. Their criters are all pastured for real pastured not just because they can suit some regulation. All of them have been practicing organic methods for more than a decade. They are not in it for the money that's for sure but they aren't starving either. I eat healthy by my standards and not the mainstream medical community, they are full of shit generally speaking. My farming philosophy is way beyond organic and sustainable. I do not believe that conventionally designed organic farming is sustainable in the long term but I digress....

                                                            1. re: magicdave
                                                              rottenapple Nov 20, 2011 03:03 AM

                                                              Awesome. I'm personally looking to buy my own farm within the next year. I was raised on a beef (real Black Angus, not just a spot of black on them as the FDA requires now) ranch and we ate mostly organic foods. I agree with you on the conventional organic not being sustainable and plan a mixture of conventional organic using a lot of biodynamic and permaculture techniques. I think it has it's place, but it is just the beginning. I had gotten away from it all for many years until I spent about six months in Mexico where I re-aquainted myself with real food again. Unfortunately, afterwards I could never eat American Tex-Mex again after eating REAL Mexican food! lol Speaking of eggs, I miss my yard bird eggs. :( The bleachy pale yellow yolks one finds in the store are disgusting after you've had true free range eggs from chickens that are raised with respect. Not to mention how much fun they are to have around, and how effective they are for controlling bus and mice!

                                                              1. re: rottenapple
                                                                magicdave Nov 20, 2011 06:09 AM

                                                                I didn't mention permaculture because some people think of it as a bunch of hippies. Not that I think there is anything bad about being a hippie. I like to think of it as forest farming. Yeah my son always asked me how come the eggs tasted better at my house than his mom's house. LOL I know what you mean about real Mexican as opposed to American versions. When I lived in California I ate regularly at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant owned by a couple from Mexico. It was the best Mexican food I have ever had in a restaurant. I miss having chickens running around the place. I am moving to a small piece of land next year to live and put my ideas for a forest garden into practice. I will most likely have a few goats instead of a cow though. Speaking of mice, it cracks me up to see those eggs advertised bragging about the 100% vegetarian diet. Most people don't know that chickens are omnivores.

                                                                1. re: magicdave
                                                                  rottenapple Nov 20, 2011 01:46 PM

                                                                  I've had goats before, and I never will again! They seem to think with their stomachs and we wound up having to put them in a back pasture so they wouldn't destroy too much stuff. They had had free rein in our yard, but after destroying the bushes and the screen porch and several other non-edible (yet expensive) items they had to go to the back. They are fun though, but I think I had enough with them. lol I do miss my yard birds and can't wait to get more (I want about 40 Rhode Island Reds) as much for their personalities (and comedy) as their eggs. I always chuckle when I think of how they are supposed to be the decendants of the T- Rex. My how the mighty have fallen! lol Only one more year before I will be able to live the good life again. :)

                                                            2. re: rottenapple
                                                              sandylc Nov 20, 2011 09:04 PM

                                                              You forgot about saturated fat! Quite good for you, in fact. Real food.

                                                        3. re: Glencora
                                                          magicdave Nov 20, 2011 06:19 AM

                                                          Last night while visiting the grocery store I went to the meat case and looked at every brand of bacon both "cured" and uncured" and this is what I discovered. All brands of "cured" bacon had an average sodium content of 175 mg per serving. All brands of "uncured" bacon had an average sodium content of 110 mg. The only bacon with less is called reduced sodium bacon and it had an average of 90 mg. of sodium per serving. The difference between the "cured" and "uncured" sodium content appeared to be the added sodium from the various sodium based "preservatives" that are in addition to the regular salt. The "uncured" bacon did not have the extra preservatives added. For me I would not by "cured" bacon because I do not want those other synthetic salts in my body. If you want to limit salt read the label and learn which products are best for you. Uncured bacon has LESS sodium than the cured stuff.

                                                        4. p
                                                          pastaeater Jan 10, 2009 05:28 PM

                                                          *** This is not accurate! Naturally cured are generally crafted in the old school way , like granpa used to eat, sodium nitrate is not added, it occurs naturally. The most famous naturally cured meat is Prosciutto di Parma... Italians have been making this stuff well before they knew the world was round, much less the existance of sodium nitrate. Google "naturally cured bacon" and check it out. Also: http://www.meatscience.org/pubs/White... explains the cured process ...Alton Brown on the food network did have a show that toured a smokehouse that makes naturally cured... time to set the Tivo.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: pastaeater
                                                            applehome Jan 12, 2009 11:22 AM

                                                            Naturally cured bacon - what's that - another marketing term? Whaddya mean "it occurs naturally" - like you leave a piece of meat to hang and it cures? Nonsense. You add SALT! AND LOTS OF IT! I certainly hope that people eating prosciutto or serrano or country ham from the deep south don't get the impression from you or Alton that these products are free of the harmful effects of sodium because they're cured "naturally". The worst part is that since salt alone is not enough to kill the anaerobic bacteria, you can get e. bot (botulism) from eating salt-only cured meats. This was more often from raw salumi than ham - but these days it doesn't happen because anybody selling uncooked salumi wouldn't dare NOT use nitrites.

                                                            Salting is curing. It's the original form of curing. Salt is Sodium Chloride - it inhibits bacteria, although not as well as nitrites. Saltpeter (pottassium nitrate and sodium nitrate) is almost as old as salt. It's been around since at least the middle ages. So it isn't exactly a modern discovery that mankind hasn't thoroughly tested and used for centuries. Calling salt natural and nitrates unnatural is a pretty ridiculous distinction.

                                                            Nitrites are newer, at least the use of nitrites directly. But this process began over a century ago when German scientists discovered that it was actually the nitrites that were doing the anti-bacterial work and turning the meat pink in the process. The nitrates were turning into nitrites over time. There is, today, after all the research, only a laboratory tie-in (no actual discovered process or event) between the nitrites and nitrosamines and cancer.

                                                            So you have a choice. Use salt only and take the risk of getting botulism - which has definitely occurred. Or use nitrites and take the risk of getting cancer - which has never occurred or been proven to occur.

                                                            Naturally cured, my ass...

                                                            Now - if we want to discuss the flavor advantages of a slow salt only cure, that's a completely different topic. But the health advantages? Wake up and smell something besides Alton's butt! Smokehouse? Smokehouse?!!! Prosciutto and Serrano are NOT SMOKED!

                                                            You might get the idea that I don't hold Alton in Mt. Olympus stature like many people seem to do. He's at best a rip-off artist with a VCR. Shoulda stuck to making music videos.

                                                            Uncured bacon. That's salt pork, maybe? I use it all the time for chowder. If it's uncured, it has neither salt nor nitrates/nitrites. Or perhaps it's smoked, but not cured. I would have little use for that as smoke can be overpowering in many recipes that use fatty pork as a base.

                                                            1. re: applehome
                                                              Zeldog Jan 19, 2009 07:13 PM

                                                              Applehome may sound a bit excitable, but overall he's right on the money. By definition, to cure is to preserve using common salt. Except for what is preserved by smoke only, which you will not find in a store, "uncured bacon" is an oxymoron (kinda like "uncured lox"). For that matter, so is "natural bacon", unless you know of a pig that comes to the slaughterhouse pre-salted or smoked.

                                                              I cure meats and make sausage at home, and I do sometimes use nitrates and nitrites. That said, put the risk of botulism in perspective. I checked the CDC website, and the most recent data I could find was 26 cases of food borne botulism in 1999 in the US. Fatality rate is reported to be 5%, which means 1 or 2 deaths. By comparison, there are approximately 40,000 reported cases of salmonellosis and 400 fatalities per year(no breakdown by food borne vs others). Now, I'll admit that it could be that the low rate of botulism is because very few people are eating nitrate free meat, or that the higher rate of salmonellosis is because lots of people are kissing their pet turtles, but my conclusions are 1: don't use nitrates just because you're afraid of getting botulism, 2: if you don't grow your own veggies, cook them, and 3: don't kiss turtles.

                                                              As for nitrates/nitrites and cancer, it's true that the link has not been proven, but in epidemiology things are seldom proven. It hasn't been proven that smoking causes lung cancer, but the evidence is overwhelming. But for nitrates/nitrites, the evidence is just interesting. It's mostly based, or at least started by comparing the diets and cancer rates in different countries. One study found that Japanese immigrants to the US had high rates of stomach cancer (theoretically associated with nitrates/nitrites in the diet) and low rates of colon cancer (theoretically associated with high fat diets), but subsequent generations had lower rates of stomach, and higher rates of colon cancer. The conclusion was that changes in diet made the difference. The problem is they did not measure each individual's diet, so they really don't know if other factors (dietary or otherwise) besides nitrates and fat might be contributing to the rates of the two cancers. Still, very interesting. I guess with bacon you may be getting the worst of both worlds. But I really like bacon.

                                                              1. re: Zeldog
                                                                applehome Jan 19, 2009 09:24 PM

                                                                If you cure raw sausages (salami/salumi) without nitrites/nitrates, you are taking a risk. I use pink salt (93.75% salt, 6.25% nitrites), even if I'm going to smoke the sausage at a fairly high temp (cooking it), but certainly if I'm just going to air dry it. The basic cure is 1 lb salt to 1/2 lb sugar to 2 oz of pink salt, so the actual amount of nitrite is significantly diluted even beyond the pink salt packaging before applying to the meat. I've also used insta-cure#2, sodium nitrate for sausages (landjaeger) that are cold smoked and then dried for 2-3 weeks,

                                                                According to Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn there are about 25 cases of botulism poisoning per year in the US, mostly from home canning. It's probably from the same data you saw. They say, "Botulim has been caused here by canned tuna and garlic stored in olive oil. In Japan, preserved fish is the chief culprit. "

                                                                I had a friend of mine get trigonosis a couple of decades ago - something that was long since controlled in commercial pork. But he raised and butchered his own pigs, and he didn't follow the rules - there was some contamination.

                                                                So these things do happen even though they're super rare. But risk management is all about perspective. Anyone that cuts out nitrate/nitrites for fear of cancer, or cuts out home canned goods or home made sausages for fear of botulism, who then crosses streets at busy intersections, or drives a car on public roads, is not being consistent and true to actual statistics.

                                                                1. re: applehome
                                                                  Zeldog Jan 20, 2009 05:17 PM

                                                                  Agreed. I'll be starting batches of pepperoni and soprasetta tomorrow and both will include insta-cure #2. For myself, I like the flavor it adds. But I share with friends, and for that reason I do like the anti-bacterial factor. I hope your friend was lucky enough to only make himself sick and not others. I tell my friends what's in the sausage and they know I won't be offended if they don't want any.

                                                                  You say perspective is the key, I say information. Everyone has a perspective, but if it's not based on information the perspective can be totally lame. I used to flavor olive oil using raw garlic. My perspective was that it was no problem at all. Fortunately, I didn't get seriously ill before I got better information.

                                                                  And you need to consider benefit along with risk. Nobody needs to eat sausage, but we all need to cross the street. I may be 100,000 times more likely to be hit by a car while crossing the street than die from botulism, but as much as I like my block, I don't want to spend my entire life on it.

                                                            2. re: pastaeater
                                                              magicdave Nov 19, 2011 11:49 AM

                                                              Very well stated pastaeater.

                                                            3. Will Owen Jan 11, 2009 01:58 PM

                                                              Since I'm not likely to eat anything so labelled, I simply take the curmudgeonly attitude that this is another preposterous misnomer of the same sort as "bone-in filet" and "vodka martini".

                                                              1. DockPotato Jan 11, 2009 04:44 PM

                                                                A local item is "side pork" aka fresh bacon as the hog provides it. It's sliced thick with skin on and fried crisp. I heard of this on the date of the OP by coincidence from friends who are ordering half a hog cut to order. No salt, no smoke, nothing.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: DockPotato
                                                                  Will Owen Jan 11, 2009 05:38 PM

                                                                  The principal difficulty with defining bacon as a particular cut of pork, as opposed to defining it by its production process, is that it's not the same cut everywhere. Some places it's belly or side meat, in the UK it's back meat. What we in the US call Canadian bacon is smoked loin; as for the stuff the Canadians actually eat, I don't remember offhand where that's cut from, but I don't think it's side or belly. That "side pork" sounds to me like some of the treatments of belly that have become so popular, as indeed they should.

                                                                  1. re: Will Owen
                                                                    billieboy Jan 12, 2009 06:34 PM

                                                                    I am Canadian and what we call "Canadian bacon" is peameal bacon cuz it's got a peameal coating. I am pretty sure it is back bacon and not cured, but not positive cuz I don't eat the stuff. Much prefer regular bacon.

                                                                    1. re: billieboy
                                                                      DockPotato Jan 13, 2009 11:19 AM

                                                                      Honestly, I've only heard "Canadian Bacon" used to distinguish our meat from imported US or Euro bacons.

                                                                      "Peameal" or 'back" bacon is cut from the loin, salt-cured and rolled in corn meal (used to be pea meal) and is not smoked. When I order "bacon" i expect streaky bacon which has been salt, sugar or maple cured and then smoked.

                                                                      I too prefer "bacon" but will never pass on a good "back bacon on a kaiser."

                                                                2. v
                                                                  vtnewbie Jan 12, 2009 12:21 PM

                                                                  Used to eat some mighty fine home-cured bacon that used only salt and smoke. However, it did get refrigerated after being cured, so germs weren't a factor. As I recall, the smoking was originally instituted to keep bugs ("skippers") out, and the salt did the actual preserving.

                                                                  By the by, I thought botulism was anaerobic?

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: vtnewbie
                                                                    applehome Jan 12, 2009 03:28 PM

                                                                    Botulism is anaerobic - that's what I said (I see no other reference to botulism). In his book Charcuterie, Ruhlman warns, "The warm, anaerobic, protein-rich interior of a sausage is an ideal environment for bacteria that produce the potentially fatal nerve toxin botulism poisoning. Sodium Nitrite,,, prevents these bacteria from growinh."

                                                                    The interior of a solid piece of meat, either bacon or ham or whatever, is much less likely to harbor bacteria, so it's much less of a concern. But it's important to remember that salt alone will not kill these bacteria. Given that bacon comes these days pre-sliced, in vacuum packed packages, is it a risk to eat non-nitrate/nitrited bacon? More so than the risk of getting cancer from nitrosamines converted from the nitrite/nitrates used as preservatives?

                                                                    BTW, refrigeration doesn't kill bugs, it just keeps them from growing. But I'm sure you were safe as long as you cooked it - more to the point, you were eating delicious bacon!

                                                                    1. re: applehome
                                                                      vtnewbie Jan 13, 2009 08:25 AM

                                                                      You offered the option of using salt only, and getting botulism. Exaggerated a bit for forensic effect, I'm sure. I took umbrage at that, because I forget that most folks are referring to commercial products here, so the pre-sliced aspect caught me by surprise. Commercial products can get pretty germy (unavoidable when dealing with large-scale commodities), so the additional anti-bacterials probably earn their keep in that application.

                                                                      But back to the bacon, oh man yes, it was the good stuff. Since it was hand-sliced it was thick, and if my dad did the cutting it still had the rind on. That was astoundingly good, as it got crisp before the rest of the slice.

                                                                      Also very good to lay a few slices over the top of a pot of baked beans to roast for a few hours. It attained a transcendent state.

                                                                      1. re: applehome
                                                                        meatscienceguy Feb 18, 2010 12:09 PM

                                                                        Just an FYI - the interior of muscle is bacteria-free, unless the animal had a bacterial/sistemic infection at slaughter. The interior of that ham or belly does not stay free from the ingress of bacteria after slaughter. You use needles to inject a solution of water, salt, phosphate (in the case of normal ham), nitrite and erythorbate.

                                                                        There is a risk of eating "naturally cured" "uncured" products. The process used to make them is less controlled than traditionally cured products. The residual nitrite in them is too low to stop the growth of C. botulinum and other pathogens. And, we are going to have people die from this technology before someone wakes up at the USDA and decides to kill this whole "naturally cured" and "uncured" meat BS.

                                                                        1. re: meatscienceguy
                                                                          rottenapple Nov 23, 2011 03:13 PM

                                                                          People die mostly from the foods that are "manufactured" by big agra, not form home curing or canning. Spinach with E. Coli? Not in my garden! However, you will get such garbage from a big factory farm. The same with their meats. Grown in cages, over medicated (I used none but food), etc., the modern farming system is more responsible for any food poisoning outbreaks than what some farmer does in his backyard. I think you are giving the modern systems far too much credit, and the old processes far too little.

                                                                          1. re: rottenapple
                                                                            magicdave Nov 23, 2011 05:39 PM

                                                                            Well stated my friend. Some of my ancestors were forest farming in the northeastern woodlands before the Europeans showed up with their plows and rows. Some of my ancestors had plows too since they were early arriving Scots. My friend Arthur Hodges taught me forest farming techniques when I was in grade school back in the 50's. Arthur was in his 70's-80's, I am not sure but he learned from his father. He was native to North America and one hell of a gardener too. He taught me how they dried meats and fish, all of the old ways before the Europeans arrived. I have been gardening without chemicals of any kind my entire life. I grew up in a rural area in upstate NY. My Dad was their doctor. I never heard of any of them getting sick or dying from eating their home preserved meats & vegetables. We all ate them. Drank lots of Raw Milk too. :-)

                                                                    2. boomer13 May 3, 2009 12:33 PM

                                                                      When searching this topic - comparing my TJ's uncured bacon to the grocery store traditional cured bacon (but this was called NATUAL SMOKED).- it started me questioning the difference between Sodium nitrate & Sodium nitrite. Hopefully this link is useful to you, I thought it was concise & included the (UN)CURE info as well.

                                                                      Their biggest claim was the naturally sodium nitrate in something like celery juice that serves as a developer (creates the bi-product) sodium nitrite... hence the similarities to traditional cured bacon (with sodium nitrite added). The link explains it better...

                                                                      Or course you could take this info with a grain of salt (ha!) since it is biased (a bit) - from the American Meat Institute.

                                                                      1. David A. Goldfarb May 3, 2009 01:00 PM

                                                                        The cancer risk comes from nitrosamines, which are formed by the interaction of nitrites with protein. It doesn't matter if the nitrite comes from celery juice or a commercial curing salt. Here's a good explanation of the chemistry--


                                                                        A commercial curing salt is a more controllable material than celery juice, and I like to be sure I'm using the right amount to cure the meat and prevent food poisoning.

                                                                        I wonder if the celery juice used in commercially "uncured" meats is tested for actual nitrite/nitrate content. I'm sure companies like Niman Ranch don't want to run the risk of a botulism outbreak associated with their brand, "Fearless" as their hot dogs might be (and I hasten to add--they're really good hot dogs), so I suspect there is some testing involved, and it's a bit disingenuous to call "naturally cured" products "uncured."

                                                                        Removing any doubts, here is a discussion in a food science textbook about the controlled use of celery juice in the curing of meats--


                                                                        1. c
                                                                          calliope_nh Jul 22, 2010 05:16 PM

                                                                          I love bacon and just saw uncured bacon in the store for the first time. I cook it at home a few times a year. I came to ChowHound to see what folks had to say. The package was packed like any other bacon, but had a large warning that it needed to be kept chilled below _° at all times before preparation for safety reasons.

                                                                          I would gladly eat more bacon, just don't seem to get around to it except for some lazy weekends.

                                                                          I venture to say that if any of us were eating enough bacon to get cancer from the nitrite I would worry more about dropping from the results of all the fat and sodium in this ambrosia. Well, I know that some fat and sodium in bacon now and then won't do me in. I am confident that the nitrite won't either.

                                                                          1. m
                                                                            magicdave Aug 11, 2010 06:37 AM

                                                                            I read lots of the replies to this question here but did not see the reason bacon is labeled uncured because of the use of celery juice instead of the actual chemicals sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. Here is the reason....,The label requirement is a USDA regulation for ALL meat products that use alternatives to the chemical versions of the nitrates and nitrites.

                                                                            Personally I only eat Organic foods so all of the bacon I eat is cured adding celery powder to the brine before it is smoked. It is the opinion of some "nutritionists" that because the nitrates and nitrites in Celery are in fact plant based that there is much less danger from consuming these "types" of nitrates and nitrites and I agree. Minerals in plants have been made absorbable by the active enzymes that are both in the soil and in the root systems of the plants. There is a distinct difference in the cellular structure of minerals found in plants and the very same minerals found in the soil where they were grown.

                                                                            I make my own cured pork products from pigs that are humanely raised and pastured. They are never fed garbage. They all have names, are incredibly intelligent friendly animals and I always thank them for providing me with sustenance when I take their life to feed my "family." My situation is unique since I am partnered with an organic farm where I will spend my retirement helping with the animals, our vegetable garden, and milking our modest dairy herd. All of our vegetables are heirloom varieties and all of our animals are heritage breeds.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: magicdave
                                                                              Zeldog Aug 12, 2010 07:53 PM


                                                                              I must confess that your second paragraph sounds like new age hooey, but why you do a good thing is not very important, so I salute you for getting close to your food animals. I wish I could do the same (although giving them names might be a bit too much for me). But the main reason for this post is I'd like to try curing meat using celery powder or juice. Care to share your recipes for a brine and/or dry cure?

                                                                              1. re: magicdave
                                                                                JMF Jan 16, 2011 12:20 PM

                                                                                Cellular structure of minerals? What the heck does that mean?

                                                                                1. re: JMF
                                                                                  Pollo Jan 19, 2011 06:19 PM

                                                                                  Lot's of "interesting" points of view so I am going to add my 2 bits to this discussion....
                                                                                  Can you cure bacon/hams/loins etc. without nitrates (just salt/spices and maybe sugar)...YES.
                                                                                  The only reason regulatory agencies insist on use of nitrates in the curing step is that final product(s) are vacuum packaged. Bot in sausage making was a huge problem in the early part of the last century which led to all the work and use of nitirite/nitates. But the problem was not because sausages were vacuum packaged but because the initial ingredients (i.e. meat) and preparation methods were so bad (as in dirty....dirty...dirty).

                                                                                  1. re: Pollo
                                                                                    snowman51 Feb 27, 2011 05:49 PM

                                                                                    Your facts are Wrong. The FDA insists on use of nitrites because its the ONLY way to make certain meats safe to eat.

                                                                                    1. re: snowman51
                                                                                      rottenapple Nov 23, 2011 03:15 PM

                                                                                      The FDA is not interested in our safety. If they were, they would not insist that for a food to be safe that it must be dead.

                                                                                    2. re: Pollo
                                                                                      PigWizard Mar 12, 2011 01:27 AM

                                                                                      It's not required because of vacuum packaging. Most meats are vacuum packaged without being cured. Just about every steak you've every eaten has been vacuum packed at some point.
                                                                                      Curing is what's called a kill step, and there are a number of different things you can do as a kill step. Irradiation, curing, salting, freezing, and cooking are all kill steps.
                                                                                      Also, if you scroll down a bit to my other post, you'll see that nitrates and nitrites have been used since ancient Eygpt.

                                                                                2. b
                                                                                  bogha Feb 26, 2011 07:31 PM

                                                                                  I understand that we are talking about commercial bacon cured and uncured. I often make my own bacon at home and since their are few food scientist around I would like to ask some questions to make sure I am being safe.
                                                                                  I get a pork belly and cover it with alot of sea salt and other spices along with apple juice and and refrigerate for three days after that rinse and let are dry again in fridge. after that I hot smoke it 200 degrees for hours depending on size ( really it is cooking with smoke) slice it as needed and consume within two weeks. Is this safe and if not how is this different from brining a pork shoulders for a day and smoking it without the use of nitrites or just cooking a 6 day old pork chop for that matter

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: bogha
                                                                                    snowman51 Feb 27, 2011 05:46 PM

                                                                                    What you are doing is uinsafe. You may not get sick this time or the next 50 times, but with the bug you are dealing with will not only make you sick but quite possibly die. The botulism poision has not taste and the meat will not appear to be spoiled and yes no matter how clean things are now, its still out there. It grows between 40 deg F and 140 deg F the temp in your frig. It is my understanding that once it grows to a certain level that even cooking will not make it safe to eat.

                                                                                    My bottom line is that if you are wrong and unlucky it kills and thats just to sick for me to risk.

                                                                                    1. re: snowman51
                                                                                      JMF Feb 28, 2011 02:25 AM

                                                                                      snowman51- I'm sorry but you don't know the difference between aerobic bacteria and anaerobic bacteria. Botulism does not work how you think it does. The curing, with salt, smoke, etc. inhibits and kills bacteria, and the refrigeration ensures there is no problem, although a properly cured piece of meat can be left at room temp. practically forever. By the way, the fridge is below 40 degrees.

                                                                                      1. re: JMF
                                                                                        snowman51 Nov 11, 2011 04:09 PM

                                                                                        Check your frig temp. Usually 40 deg F unless you have a special meat drawer which may be at 31-32 deg F.

                                                                                        No O2 and botulism grows, check it out in Wiki.

                                                                                    2. re: bogha
                                                                                      rottenapple Nov 20, 2011 03:20 AM

                                                                                      Never thought of the apple juice, sounds interesting. I wish that these bot feared people would understand that there is a completely different scenario for the small scale farmer than there is for the large conventional factory farmer. The conventional factory farmer produces a disgusting meat that does indeed need to be destroyed before eating. However, feeding hogs great food is key to eating great bacon/ham. If the bot was such a risk, I would be dead already! In fact, of the half dozen times I've had food poisoning in my life (all around the world and am 51), they have all been the result of these "safer" industrial foods. I've never had an issue with ham/beef/canned foods/etc. from the supposedly "deadly" preparations with the exception of afterwards I want to barf when faced with the industrial junk. To all of these industrial proponents, note how cancer rates keep climbing the more we fuel our bodies with their nutrition free foods. The FDA doesn't even want your food to be real, it must be dead to satisfy them. Thsi means no nutrition as well as no taste. As a child, I knew very few people who had cancer (mostly heavy drinker/smokers), while today almost everyone I know is likely to get it. I'll take my chances by saying no to the factories. :)

                                                                                    3. p
                                                                                      PigWizard Mar 12, 2011 01:17 AM

                                                                                      This has been a particular pet peeve of mine for a number of years. I don't know what company started this "uncured" runaway train, but I'm glad to see that some people are finally getting a clue.

                                                                                      Have you ever wondered why pink salt, i.e. curing salt, is tinted pink, rather than yellow, orange or red to signify something potential dangerous in large quantities? It's not because it makes the meat pink through direct pigmentation, but because of history. A naturally occurring pink salt, called natron as in Lake Natron near the Great Rift Valley in Africa, was found to do a better job at preserving meat and mummies than just sea salt. Yeah, mummies, as in the ancient Egyptians. It's not just the dry desert air that preserved bodies. Most mummies have residual nitrates and nitrites, some of it introduced, and some of it from the soils they were buried in.

                                                                                      Now, natron is not sodium nitrate, but sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, yet the root of the word nitrate is linked to the Greek, Latin and Arabic versions of the word, which go down some pretty interesting etymological roads to get to us


                                                                                      Chemically, nitrites (NO2) and nitrates (NO3) are all but IMPOSSIBLE to avoid. Both are nitrogen/oxygen ions, and if you remember you middle school science class at all you'll remember that the air we breathe is over 78% nitrogen, and just over 20% oxygen, even you’re body is 3% nitrogen. It is a constituent part of amino acids and therefore proteins and nucleic acids. You body creates these ions, lightning and plants create these ions, it’s even created in your saliva.


                                                                                      The reduction of sodium nitrate, to nitrate reductase, to sodium nitrite, to nitric oxide, to myoglobin in the curing of meats is an anti-oxidant process. Oxidation is a corrosive force, rust being a very obvious example. When meats high in iron like beef are cut open they are exposed to oxygen, they go from purplish to deep read to dull red to brown. The brown is a sort of meat rust; the oxygen is corrosive to the proteins as well as the fats. The addition of sodium nitrites inhibit that process, acting as a catalyst to bind the oxygen with the myoglobin, which is the primary oxygen carrying protein in muscles. Since the muscle is no longer alive and in need of the oxygen (a potential free radical), it stays bound to the myoglobin until acted upon by some other process, like heat from cooking.

                                                                                      Now, the bacon study that gave some ump to an already rolling ball regarding the potential danger of nitrates and nitrates was a very ridiculous piece of science. Mice were fed 400 time the daily dose of nitrosamines, which are potentially carcinogenic. Most things a 400 times the daily does will do some damage. So that was a bad parameter to work with, roughly equivalent to 100lbs of bacon for a person. Try to eat that, I dare you. I bet you could get to 3-5 lbs before you start to look for a toilet and some laxatives.

                                                                                      Sodium nitrite in pure form definitely dangerous, since is an anti-oxidant. It would happen something like this. You eat a couple teaspoons of the stuff, and within a short while, you’re cells asphyxiate because your body can no longer carry oxygen. In fact, you may have experienced this as some point in your life already, in the form of blue baby syndrome or cyanosis.

                                                                                      Yet even small amounts of it, as little as 40 parts per million, can prevent botulism from growing. The spores of the bacteria are everywhere, but require specific conditions (anaerobic, low acid, warm temperatures, the inside of sausage in a smoker) to grow, which produces the toxin that is the most deadly in the world. Killing the spores is very difficult, requiring temperatures of 259ºF, which is why home canning is the largest source of botulism poisoning in the US. Incidentally, it rarely kills, but it does put you in the hospital for a month. In fermented sausages, the ph must go down in a very set amount of time, called degree hours, along with the addition of nitrites, to prevent the bacteria from growing.

                                                                                      To get back to the issue with labeling, the FDA and the USDA both a lot of loopholes and asterisks, and label approval is one of the biggest nightmares of any food producer trying to create a new inspected product by either. There are entire companies that do nothing but help you get through the approval and testing process. Every claim that is made on a label, (no nitrites added, less fat, less sodium, improved flavor even) has to be tested and verified by an independent lab. The guidelines around natural additives are one of the biggest loopholes. In the case of nitrates and nitrites, because it is present in celery juice powder and cherry powder, you don’t have to list nitrite or nitrates as an ingredient, just as you don’t have to list proteins as an ingredient in meat.

                                                                                      Now the number of cases of botulism poisoning in the US is pretty insignificant compared to heart disease, lung cancer, and a lot of other things that will kill you just as dead. And many of those things are not detectable until they've done their damage. That being said, most people would like to avoid anything that makes them dead.

                                                                                      So, we have the two most common elements in the air we breathe combined in a way that keeps botulism from growing, so I’ll keep using them in my processing. You’re eating them in vegetables, which is why you don’t feed spinach to babies less than 6 months to a year, that blue baby thing. Turns out babies have more of the bacteria in their systems that reduce nitrates it in relation to the size of their bodies. So you can't really use that natural source argument is better than chemically produced argument, it just doesn’t hold up with that information in the mix. And you might as well eat the bacon that tastes the best, since you also trying to eat lots of veggies. Whether that celery is fertilized with organic cowshit or with industrially produced fertilizers, the nitrogen cycle is the same.

                                                                                      What’s that line about a little knowledge being more dangerous than complete ignorance?

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: PigWizard
                                                                                        JuniorBalloon Mar 12, 2011 07:59 AM

                                                                                        Very nice post. While it's clear the "Uncured" are not nitrate/nitrite free, do you think they pose a health threat from bacteria? It seems if they were we'd be hearing about more people getting sick.

                                                                                        Is this you? http://www.pigwizard.com/ If so sounds like you make some tasty sausage.


                                                                                        1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                                                          PigWizard Mar 12, 2011 10:45 AM

                                                                                          I don't tink that it's a great threat. If it's been inspected by the USDA, the process has to be proven safe before the product can leave the building. And there are different kinds of safe to them: this batch is safe, this process is safe but you still have to test every freaking time, this process kills everything so dead that you could eat it raw, and lots of layers in between. Things slip through the cracks for sure, largely e. coli in ground beef, but that is a different post altogether.

                                                                                          What is different about the two processes is the accuracy, as meat scienceguy pointed out rather well. With natural products, there is a variation in the nitrate ppm that is uncontrollable, adn isn't required to be controled because it is a natural additive. I suspect that some producers like it for that reason, one less formalu to do. With using the pure forms, it is mandated how much you can put in, how little you can put in, and how much is left over.

                                                                                          That link to the Cook's Illustrated letter to the editor doesn't mention that the residual levels of the "uncured" bacons that they tested were all OVER the residual levels allowed in the normal way of processing. Secondly, the nitorsamines (carcinogen) are created from sodium nirtrate, not nitrite. SODIUM NITRATE IS NOT ALLLOWED IN BACON AS AN ADDITIVE MADE IN THE TRADITIONAL FORMULATION. Sorry, that part just kills me. So the compound that everyone is trying to avoid is something that is present in spades in the supposedly "healthier" version. i just can't keep from rolling my eyes here.

                                                                                          Now, as I mentioned just a minute ago, the celery and cherry juices are a crapshoot as to ppm of nitrates. So I agree with meatscience guy that it could happen that there is not enough residual to do much of a job of warding off bacteria, but that's what refrigeration is for. And vacuum packaaging, and that cook properly box on the labels, The risk of botulism is small in this case.

                                                                                          So the other aspect called into question regarding the celery juice issue is the addtion of nitrate reducing, lactic acid producing bacteria. We've been working with lactic acid bacteria as a species for probably longer than curing salt. Many, many cheeses are produced with strains of Lactobaccillus. So we have some history with this process, and we know how to test for it (ph), and we know how long it should take degree hour fomulation), relative to the temperature of the meat to produce enough acid to make it safe from a variety of harmful bacteria. And this is all formulated, tested, approved, verified, in the HACCP plan, and constantly updated information in a USDA plant.

                                                                                          To clarify another point, the USDA inpects meat, poultry and eggs. All other food products are inspected by the FDA. Now if you're a ravioli maker, you get to deal with both most likely. On the days that you make cheese ravs, you get the FDA looking over you're shoulder. Sausage ravs, you get the USDA. Sounds like fun, huh?

                                                                                          Yes, that's my PigWizard website, such as it is. Much more good stuff on

                                                                                          Sometime soon I'll get on here and write about why I think pork is the safest meat in America.

                                                                                          1. re: PigWizard
                                                                                            snowman51 Mar 12, 2011 03:52 PM

                                                                                            very informative and well done (pardon the pun). You should submit a long version to the NY times or WSJ food sections.
                                                                                            Thank you for your time

                                                                                            1. re: PigWizard
                                                                                              graymatter333 Mar 20, 2011 02:17 PM

                                                                                              I have a question about this and I am not an expert of any kind. I am just wondering if you were to get "uncured" bacon that has bacteria in it and then you fry the bacon like most of us do before we eat it wouldn't that kill these bacteria that are harmful or is this not accurate?

                                                                                              1. re: graymatter333
                                                                                                PigWizard Mar 20, 2011 03:16 PM

                                                                                                Proper cooking will kill bacteria, but not necessarily destroy the by-products of their reproduction. Salmonella and e. Coli are often present on foods, but are killed in the cooking or curing process. The danger of these bacteria is the bacteria themselves, not so much their by-products.

                                                                                                Botulism on the other had is present everywhere, but as a inert spore. Proper conditions must exist for the spores to begin growing and reproducing, the by-product of reproduction is a chemical that is highly toxic to us.

                                                                                                So, yes we may kill bacteria in cooking, but that is not necessarily the danger we are trying to avoid.

                                                                                        2. s
                                                                                          snowman51 Nov 22, 2011 10:51 PM

                                                                                          I will state my information from a historical perspective. My family was in the farming business for over the last 400 years, most recently dairy. My father started to leave the business and I was never in it. I did learn some important information about meat curing. Farmers often raised their own pigs, chickens, and cattle as well as crops as did my family. In fact I helped raise a few pigs and chickens myself. My family used salt peter for at least the last 400 years to cure meats such as bacon, sausage and various jerky’s. Only a teaspoon for 100 lbs of meat plus lots of salt. I suspect that the people who consumed these products only tasted the salt, consequently the lore about salt curing. Salt had nothing to do with the cure, it was that little teaspoon of saltpeter that did the magic.

                                                                                          Saltpeter is now banned. The reason is the nitrate of saltpeter is potentially harmful if left after the curing process. The nitrites are completely safe. Science has learned that the nitrite is the chemical that does the trick and consequently banned nitrates. Uncured bacon uses celery powder (containing an unknown quantity of the banned nitrate ) to cure bacon. If all the nitrate is converted to nitrite, all is well, if not, nitrates remain. Nitrates are banned from normal cured bacon and no residual amount is allowed. In simple English, the so called natural un-uncured bacon contains all of the stuff people are trying to avoid when buying bacon than the cured does.. If there is a danger from a small amount of nitrates you will get it in un-cured bacon. Buying cured bacon will avoid this problem!!!

                                                                                          Hams use a mix of nitrates and nitrites, e.g. instacure #2, however the cure time is long enough for all the nitrates to convert to nitrites and all is well.

                                                                                          Is there really a problem with nitrates or nitrites? Not likely as they have both been consumed for far to long to be a problem.

                                                                                          No one is living long enough, regardless of their diet, to merit any big time changes. Most with their magic diets only live to 40 to 95, just like the rest of us. My grandmothers and gggg grandfathers, mothers lived to late 80's and to about 95. They ate pig knuckles, bacon cured with saltpeter, and a lot of really discusting stuff, yet they lived, long healthy lives. It was the same for my mothes family (farmers) and most of my immediate family back to the 1500's. Some back much further.\

                                                                                          So relax and just buy ther best tasting bacon you can find, eg Oscar Myer, Mahogony meats Bishop, CA, several WI made bacons eg Newsky (sp), Celbritys and from anyone with the last name of Yoder in IN.

                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: snowman51
                                                                                            paulj Nov 22, 2011 11:51 PM

                                                                                            I found a couple of curing items at my local butcher the other day.

                                                                                            Morton's Tender Quick is 1% nitrite and nitrate (.5% each), rest salt and sugar.

                                                                                            Another product was salt and 6.5% sodium nitrite. This was aimed a more serious and experienced sausage maker.

                                                                                            In Ratio Ruhlman gives a sausage ratio of 60 parts meat/fat to 1 part salt. Together that means cured meat has about 0.1% sodium nitrite, and about 2% salt. Those who worry about sodium or heavy metal impurities in cured meat should focus on the salt, not the nitrite.

                                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                                              magicdave Nov 23, 2011 11:59 AM

                                                                                              They have to add sodium nitrate to the label because sodium nitrite oxidizes into sodium nitrate. This turned into quite a discussion about meat. There area bunch of good posts too. I find it hilarious when I get "explanations" about pathogens because I learned about food pathology literally in grade school. I was accused of making statements about "new age" hooey or some such crap. I guess I should return just give up and send my multiple degrees back the various universities that conferred them stating that some "meat experts" told me I don't know what I am talking about.

                                                                                              1. re: magicdave
                                                                                                rottenapple Nov 23, 2011 03:20 PM

                                                                                                Dang hippy! :)

                                                                                                1. re: magicdave
                                                                                                  JuniorBalloon Nov 24, 2011 08:29 AM


                                                                                                  Everything I've read says that sodium nitrite is converted into sodium nitrate in the curing process. This is the reasoning behind Cure#1 and Cure#2. Could you post a link to the information that says nitirites are converted into nitrates?

                                                                                                  It's been an interesting and informative discussion.



                                                                                                  1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                                                                    JuniorBalloon Jan 15, 2013 12:22 PM

                                                                                                    I realize this is an old thread, but only just noticed the error in my post as pointed out by Snowman51. Yes it is Nitrates that are broken down into Nitrites. That is what I meant to say.

                                                                                                    Thanks for pointing out my error.


                                                                                                  2. re: magicdave
                                                                                                    snowman51 Nov 28, 2011 11:01 PM

                                                                                                    Nitrates go to Nitrites not vise versa. See previous extensive explanations of the entie process.

                                                                                                    If processed food is so bad why are people living longer than ever, explain that!
                                                                                                    I got food poisioning once. It was from "Natural" un pasteurized orange juice.

                                                                                                    1. re: snowman51
                                                                                                      rottenapple Apr 30, 2012 12:38 PM

                                                                                                      They arent. In fact, this generation is the first one that is having a shorter life-span. Most of the reasons for the increased life-spans were due to improvements in public sanitation, not medicine or industry. Having said that, I've had about a half dozen cases of food poisoning in my life, and all of them but one were from processed foods. The one that wasn't was from some deer sausage that someone gave me. Admittedly, the first case of poisoning was my fault as it was in the days when they made pork hotdogs that were not pre-cooked.

                                                                                                      1. re: rottenapple
                                                                                                        snowman51 Jan 15, 2013 10:58 PM

                                                                                                        Your are absolutely wrong about lifespan, it is increasing.

                                                                                              2. paulj Nov 23, 2011 03:45 PM

                                                                                                Is the USDA page on bacon and food safety with a description of the labeling requirements

                                                                                                A NYT article on these labeling issues.

                                                                                                I just realized that I've been buying 'uncured bacon' for a while, in the form of ends and pieces from Trader Joes. It has all of those USDA mandated qualifiers:
                                                                                                *No nitrites or nitrates added (except those occurring naturally in celery powder)
                                                                                                Not preserved
                                                                                                Refrigerate below 40 F at all times

                                                                                                'No nitrites added' does not mean nitrite free.
                                                                                                "A study published earlier this year in The Journal of Food Protection... Natural bacon had from about a third as much nitrite as a conventional brand to more than twice as much."
                                                                                                from the NYT article

                                                                                                1. a
                                                                                                  apprazor Feb 4, 2012 01:38 PM

                                                                                                  So if I am making bologna or similar products that are cooked, do I still need to add sodium nitrite?

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: apprazor
                                                                                                    Zalbar Feb 5, 2013 07:55 AM

                                                                                                    If you're making something fresh, like sausage that will be consumed almost immediately then no.

                                                                                                    EXCEPTION: If your product will be smoked then you need the nitrites to prevent a possible/low chance of developing botulism spores that can grow and reproduce in anaerobic environment.

                                                                                                  2. j
                                                                                                    Jobe1 May 10, 2012 12:34 PM

                                                                                                    I just noticed Oscar Mayer is now running a hot dog commercial and on the package it says uncured and they also show a package of bacon in the commercial that also says uncured on it. If a big meat processing company like Oscar Mayer is willing to put their reputation on the line by selling uncured meats, then they can't be unsafe to eat. They would have done extensive research on the subject before risking so much.

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Jobe1
                                                                                                      JuniorBalloon May 15, 2012 09:30 AM

                                                                                                      I would discount people in this thread that have claimed eating "Uncured" meat is not safe. But be aware that when the label says "Uncured" it has a special "Legal" definition based on the USDA labeling requirements. "Uncured" meats were cured using celery powder. Celery powder has Nitrates and Nitrites, but because they are added as a component of something else, and not as raw ingredients, they are legally not allowed to say "Cured". They have to use the term "Uncured".

                                                                                                      Silly and unneccessary in my opinion. It just causes confusion. Now it's a whole other debate wether the Nitrates and Nitrates in celery powder are better for you than those that have been extracted into a raw form.


                                                                                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                                                                        kkwatson121 May 24, 2012 08:32 AM

                                                                                                        This thread was started quite awhile ago, but it seems that many people have started purchasing bacon labeled nitrate-free or uncured because they believe it's better. I know several women who only buy uncured bacon for their families, and I found this article that demonstrates the trend:
                                                                                                        I know that many people have their reasons for choosing either cured or uncured, but I kind of sense some marketing tactics as well. I wonder how many women (or men) have switched to uncured bacon simply because they have heard that nitrates are a dangerous chemical additive.

                                                                                                        1. re: kkwatson121
                                                                                                          paulj May 24, 2012 09:17 AM

                                                                                                          Applegate Farms, in the FAQs, make it clear that they use celery because it is the best organic source of nitrates. They are trying to be organic, not nitrate free. I suspect Trader Joes sells the same bacon but under the own label. Either that, or the USDA labeling rules force everyone to say the same thing.

                                                                                                          But I agree that a lot of people are choosing this 'uncured' because they mistakenly think it is nitrate free. I buy TJ bacon because it is convenient, the quality (mix of lean and fat) suits my taste, and the price (especially for ends) is good.

                                                                                                        2. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                                                                          Jobe1 Feb 2, 2013 01:08 PM

                                                                                                          I suspect that the doomsayers in this thread were only being negative about uncured meats because it was an organic thing and some people are against organic because they think it's just a way for some farmers to milk a bunch of suckers for more money at the grocery store but now that more mainstream meat packers are starting to do it, it pretty much silences the critics because it's no longer a fringe thing. Any company that's been around a long time and built up a reputation in the industry is not going to just throw it all away by having an outbreak of illness from their products change the public perception of their company. Things like that can kill a company quicker than a lightning strike. Look what happened to the company that made "pink slime" after a series of blatantly false news reports threw the public into a blind panic.They lost most of their contracts before the end of the week and are hanging on by a thread now. They wouldn't do it unless the risk to the public were no greater than conventionally cured meats.

                                                                                                      2. b
                                                                                                        blackpointyboots Feb 3, 2013 08:53 PM

                                                                                                        I am allergic to something in conventionally cured meats. This isn't because I have some sort of cancer fear of nitrates or other concerns that seem to have grown up around cured meats. The allergy was found by elimination diet by my doctor.

                                                                                                        Yet I still have people assume that I must just be one of those uppity nature loving food freaks who doesn't like to eat certain things. This has been beyond getting dirty looks when I pass on certain foods. I had someone lie to me about the contents of a group meal then tell me after I ate it and started getting sick that it had cured meat in it and another thing I am allergic to they said was not in the dish. To top it off this person told me to go drink some orange juice if I was "worried about nitrates".

                                                                                                        So PLEASE, instead of being indignant that anyone who doesn't want to eat conventionally cured meats must be some sort of hippie sissie, maybe just honor their choice rather than trying to prove them wrong.

                                                                                                        I am totally aware of the science behind the nitrate thing but apparently my immune system thinks otherwise.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: blackpointyboots
                                                                                                          snowman51 Feb 5, 2013 09:10 PM

                                                                                                          whatever you are allergic to, its not nitrites. Your body produces them naturally. Without them in your gut you would die of food poisoning no matter what you eat. If you can eat cherries and celery which contain HUGE quantities of nitrates you are not allergic to that part of the processed food.

                                                                                                          I understand allergies very well as I am allergic to Onions, Garlic, and Cloves. Anaphylaxis reaction no less. Many Er visits, 25 years, and many Doctors to narrow down the list to those items, meaning I couldn't eat anything with them in them, e.g. pizza, hotdogs, ketchup, some pickles, many processed meats, hamburgers and steak if cooked with a sauce or spices, spaghetti as it usually has a sauce on it, most jerky and Col. Sanders when they fked up their chicken about 30 years ago. If you haven't had your mouth and throat swell shut within minutes, you don't know what a serious allergy is.

                                                                                                          Also your Dr. may be wrong as food allergies are very difficult to test for accurately. There are a lot of spices in some processed foods. Food intolerance, although not technically an allergy, is also very hard to live with. Food intolerance and food allergies are not well understood and the science is not even close to being there yet. Black magic and food fanatics, that mostly have no clue, represent the bulk of the non scientific literature available. The FACT is that everyone is living longer than ever before, and none of the food nuts are living longer or better than the rest of us.

                                                                                                          1. re: snowman51
                                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Feb 6, 2013 01:47 PM

                                                                                                            If someone has a reaction to meats cured with nitrites, it doesn't really matter whether it's an allergy or if the nitrites per se are the culprit.

                                                                                                        2. fldhkybnva Feb 4, 2013 04:12 PM

                                                                                                          I love Wellshire Farms products and am obsessed with the thick-sliced black forest dry rubbed bacon. I tend to use it only in certain preparations, and so we also usually have more generic regular bacon in the fridge as well. I happened to be buying the black forest bacon and needed some day to day bacon so just picked up the Wellshire Farms "uncured bacon." SO and I both disliked it, it didn't seem to have "that bacon taste" and it is now in the freezer as I am not sure when it will ever be used.

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