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Oct 4, 2006 04:56 PM

cured bacon, uncured bacon

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. 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. 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

        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

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

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                      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

                        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

                          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

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

                            1. re: paulj

                              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

                                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

                                  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.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    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

                        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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            huzzah! someone who thought to think! ;-)

                          2. re: meatscienceguy

                            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. 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?

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: BKchompchomp

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

                            1. re: Glencora

                              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

                              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.

                              1. re: meatscienceguy

                                I believe you may know what you are talking about and I would like to understand your point fully. I lost you at the end of your post when you said "Because it is too low, they products are at high risk of growth of pathogens - the bacteria that kill you". Are you saying that uncured bacon is more dangerous? Or are you saying that uncured bacon doesn't 'keep' as long because it is more susceptible to bad bacteria? (all meat succumbs to bad bacteria, right?).
                                My experience with nitrate ridden meat is that it certainly doesn't spoil as fast, but its taste is also lacking. Nitrate-free meat may spoil quicker, but it taste so much better…so even if it doesn't last as long, just buy it in smaller amounts to appreciate and quantify the taste/cost ratio!

                                1. re: travisdeppe

                                  Normal bacon is nitrate free, as nitrates are banned for conventional bacon.

                                  Uncured bacon has both nitrates and nitrites in it, but the amounts are not as well controlled as normal cured bacon.

                                  So the so called natural uncured bacon has a banned substance, nitrate, as well as a byproduct, nitrites, which cure and make bacon, bacon, but in. Uncontrolled quantities, making it less safe to eat.

                                  Please re read food science guys comments carefully, remember nitrates can be bad, celery powder is all nitrate, a substance not allowed in conventional bacon.

                                  Taste has little to do with being uncured or cured bacon, but a lot to do with the sugar, spices, smoke used to make the bacon. Uncured bacon is actually cured bacon but in my opinion simply false advertising, as they are both the same thing.

                                  1. re: snowman51

                                    According to USDA regulations:

                                    Bacon can be manufactured without the use of nitrite, but must be labeled “Uncured Bacon, No Nitrates or Nitrites added” ...[or] “no nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in ingredients such as celery juice powder, parsley, cherry powder, beet powder, spinach, sea salt etc.”


                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I wonder how recently those regulations were updated? I've seen a lot of "uncured" bacon and other charcuterie that contained celery juice and none of them had such a disclaimer.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I've seen the disclaimer in a footnote *

                            3. 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

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

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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.

                                        1. re: meatscienceguy

                                          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

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

                                            1. re: rottenapple

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

                                            2. re: sandylc

                                              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

                                                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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                        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

                                              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

                                                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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                "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

                                                  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

                                                    Food grade sodium nitrite has < 1ppm Pb

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

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      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

                                                        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. 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

                                                  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

                                                    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

                                                      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

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              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

                                                                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

                                                                  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

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

                                                        3. re: Glencora

                                                          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.