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May 7, 2011 11:15 AM

What happened to Niman Ranch bacon?

Been a loyal buyer of Niman Ranch bacon for years. By far my favorite and better than any artisan bacons I've tried even from local green markets. The uncured applewood smoked and the uncured maple being my favorites. I keep every drop of the fat to enhance various dishes. So complex and smoky and slightly sweet, the whole house smells heavenly after frying this up. Then something changed. The packaging looks the same but the product is not. It's now one dimensional and salty (REALLY SALTY). It tastes like your standard supermarket bacon. It doesn't even look the same. The strips are thinner and flimsy and curl up in the pan like diner bacon. It seems like at some point the product disappeared from shelves where I normally buy (Whole Foods) then after a short period of time reappeared and at that point was when it was no longer the same. Anyone else notice this change?

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  1. I would ask the person in that department at whole foods. They are usually kept somewhat abreast of the goings on of the products they carry and the companies they order from.

    I always kept my whole foods purchaser aware of any changes we made, shortage of material due to those awful floods in Iowa in 2008, machine explosion, change in recipe.

    And, as a consumer, while waiting for a product that was listed as "distributor issues", learned of a change in the product from the wf employee in that department. Too bad for that product as I didn't like the changes.

    You could also call the company...I'd give it a try if wf doesn't know about the changes. I used to like that brand too but we now prefer Applegate Farms. I'm addicted to their Canadian bacon!

    1. Neuski's is a fantastic brand to try. Pretty easy to find in any specialty shop or butcher shop.

      1. The founder of Niman lost his business to bankruptcy about two years ago, and the new owners are trying to make it profitable. For for information, read this link:


        It wouldn't be the first time a product suffers in quality when new owners try taking shortcuts.

        5 Replies
        1. re: pitterpatter

          Thanks for the link. Very interesting article. It says a lot when the original founder won't buy the new product.

          1. re: pitterpatter

            Somewhere (perhaps a Bay Area alt paper?) I read an interview with Niman in which he said it was the beef sourcing that had departed from his more rigorous standards but the pork was still done his way and he would buy that. Has anyone else seen this or was I hallucinating?

              1. re: mcf

                That link is to same article cited previously from SF Chron. I searched for the one in which he says he would eat Niman pork but not beef. Did not find it but here is link to piece which ran in Inc mag and only mentions him not eating beef and also says that pork is still sourced from the Paul Willis free-range pig group in Iowa. Regardless of what Bill Niman may or may not be eating, this is the best article I have seen on his present and former business and the man himself.

            1. re: pitterpatter

              That would probably explain the fact that there is no more guanciale or lardo. Does anyone have a mail order source for them?

            2. I haven't bought any Niman Ranch bacon in a while; I do NOT buy uncured "bacon" anyway, believing that to be a nonexistent category, but I have bought their dry-cured bacon on several occasions, despite its somewhat elevated price and bland flavor. But recently I have not seen any of that at any of my local Trader Joe's markets, so I'm wondering (as the OP is) if there's something odd going on.

              Nueski has a lovely flavor, but it's wet-cured, and hideously expensive besides. My preference is to save up my money and mail-order the dry-cured and deeply delicious bacon from Broadbent's in Kentucky.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Will Owen

                Any recommendations on which bacon to buy from Broadbent? Hickory, applewood, maplewood?

                1. re: EM23

                  I get hickory, just from habit, though the other two would be at least as good, and certain to be less intensely smoky. I've been tempted to try a sampler pack, but haven't yet. We make an annual trip to Nashville and southern Kentucky, and one of these days I want to make a side-trip over that way; they're just north of Land Between the Lakes, and reportedly have a great country store and cafe.

                2. re: Will Owen

                  A poster mentioned on one of the TJ threads that the Niman bacon was discontinued. I figured at the time it was just the usual TJ state of affairs.

                  1. re: coney with everything

                    I scanned this thread to see if anyone mentioned it not being available from TJ's anymore, as I found that out the last time I went in. They didn't give a reason why, but they are now carrying their "own" TJ's brand of applewood-smoked bacon...so I'm assuming that's the reason. Bought a package, but haven't had a chance to try it yet.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      LW, i overheard one of the employees at my local store tell a very distraught customer last month that it was a supply issue and Niman couldn't get them as much as they needed to meet demand. don't know if it's true, but that seems to be the party line.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I just talked to someone at the TJ on Clybourn and said they are not carrying it any more "due to a change in the relationship" with the company. He also mentioned quality and their standards. Sounds like it happened when the ownership changed.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          That is the party line on everything TJ's no longer carries. That or, "people weren't buying it." My guess is that the people out on the floor really don't know and they're just told to say that.

                          I haven't seen Niman Ranch bacon there for several months, but because the WF across the street has it, I never asked. (I did switch to Applegate Farms, though.)

                    2. re: Will Owen

                      Garrett County dry rubbed bacon is uncured no celery juice or nuthin', just some spices and sugar, which is the cure, I guess.

                    3. I never liked Niman bacon or any of their products that I've tried, so take my recco with a grain of salt. I buy Garrett County dry rubbed bacon and we love it. They also make the best tasting natural hot dogs and keilbasa, chorizo and andouille sausage.