Is Bacon Red Meat or White Meat? The Truth About America’s Favorite Pork Product

Crispy, salty, smoky bacon is the star of many a breakfast table But when it comes to its classification as a meat, things get a bit murky Is bacon a red meat or a white meat? The answer has implications for nutrition and health recommendations.

With the rising popularity of low-carb diets like keto, bacon has made a comeback as a breakfast staple. But how healthy is it really? Let’s slice through the confusion and find out whether bacon is red or white meat

What Defines a Red or White Meat?

Meats are categorized as either red or white based on their levels of myoglobin. Myoglobin is the protein responsible for the red pigment in meat.

  • Red meats have higher levels of myoglobin and appear red when raw. This includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat.

  • White meats have lower myoglobin levels and appear light when raw, like chicken or fish.

The amount of myoglobin directly correlates with the amount of iron in the meat. Red meats are higher in iron, while white meats contain less.

The Official Classification of Bacon

So which camp does bacon fall into? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, pork is classified as a red meat. That includes bacon, ham, pork chops, and pork roasts.

While cooked bacon may appear more pink or white, it comes from pork bellies which are red before cooking. Pork contains high levels of myoglobin like other red meats.

There was a marketing campaign in the 1980s trying to promote bacon as a white meat. However, this was inaccurate according to health authorities. Bacon has not been reclassified since then.

Nutrition Profile of Bacon

With bacon settled firmly in the red meat category, it shares the similar nutrition profile and health implications as beef, pork, and lamb:

  • High in saturated fat – Bacon contains significant levels of saturated fat, which has been linked to increased LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.

  • High in sodium – Most bacon is cured with salt, making it very high in sodium. Too much sodium is tied to high blood pressure.

  • Source of protein – Bacon does provide high-quality protein like other red meats. But you can get protein from healthier sources.

  • Risk of cancer – Processed red meats like bacon are considered carcinogenic, and may raise risk of colorectal cancer.

  • Nutrient rich – Bacon contains useful amounts of B vitamins, zinc, iron, and other nutrients found in red meat. But it’s not the healthiest source.

  • High in calories – With about 40 calories per slice, regular bacon is high in fat and calories compared to many other protein foods.

Overall, most nutritionists recommend limiting intake of processed red meats like bacon due to the health risks.

How Much Bacon Should You Eat?

With the known health risks of processed meats, most major health organizations recommend limiting bacon intake:

  • The World Health Organization recommends consuming no more than 1.2 ounces (34 grams) of processed meat per day. This is equivalent to about 2-3 slices of bacon.

  • The American Cancer Society advises limiting processed meats to no more than 455 grams (1 pound) per week.

  • The American Heart Association suggests an even lower intake of processed meats, at just 2 servings per week.

For optimal health, it’s best to have bacon only occasionally in moderation. Limit to 1-2 slices a few times per month, rather than making it an everyday breakfast food.

Healthier Ways to Enjoy Bacon

If you can’t imagine giving up bacon completely, there are some healthier ways to enjoy it in moderation:

  • Opt for turkey bacon or beef bacon as lower-fat alternatives.

  • Choose uncured bacon without added nitrites or nitrates.

  • Look for lower sodium bacon.

  • Use bacon as a flavoring agent rather than the main protein. Crumble a small amount on salads, Brussels sprouts, baked potatoes, or omelets.

  • Make bacon a topping rather than the star. Bacon bits on a veggie omelet or baked potato make the bacon go further.

  • Wrap lean proteins like chicken breast or asparagus spears with a slice of bacon.

  • Pair bacon with plenty of vegetables and fruits. Have a BLT wrap loaded with lettuce, tomato, and avocado rather than just bacon and bread.

By carefully managing portion sizes, choosing the leanest cuts, and pairing it with healthier sides, you can still enjoy a touch of bacon flavor. But for everyday meals, leaner proteins like fish, poultry, beans, and low-fat dairy are healthier options.

The Bottom Line on Bacon: Limit Processed Red Meats

So is bacon red meat or white meat after all? The bottom line is that bacon is indeed a red meat, despite some misguided marketing claims. As a processed red meat, it contains high levels of saturated fat, sodium, and preservatives.

While the occasional strip of bacon won’t doom your diet, health experts universally recommend limiting intake to no more than 1-2 servings per week. And be sure to balance it out with plenty of veggies, fruits, and plant proteins too.

By paying attention to guidelines and portion sizes, you can still enjoy the smoky, salty flavor of bacon in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. But for your day-to-day protein needs, lean poultry, fish, beans, nuts, eggs, yogurt, and tofu are all healthier choices with less cancer risk.

So feel free to treat yourself to a Sunday bacon and eggs breakfast once in awhile. But when it comes to your daily diet, go easy on the red meat and load up on whole foods instead. Your body will thank you!

Red Meat vs White Meat Health – Which is better for you?


Is pork red or white meat?

Pork is classified a red meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as “livestock” along with veal, lamb, and beef. All livestock are considered red meat.

What meats are considered white meat?

Generally, meat from mammals such as cows and calves, sheep, lamb and pigs is considered red meat, while rabbit, chicken, and turkey meat is considered white meat. It’s all about the level of myoglobin – the iron-containing protein in muscle – giving meat its red colour.

Is bacon the healthiest meat?

“About 68% of the calories from bacon come from fat—and about half of those are from saturated fat—so it’s definitely not the healthiest meat you can choose.”

What meat is not red meat?

Red meat refers to beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork, goat and venison. It does not include chicken, turkey, goose, duck, game and rabbit. Processed meat refers to any meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or using preservatives.

Is bacon red meat?

Bacon is the most popular meat in the world, with over 268 million annual bacon eaters in America alone. If you count yourself among them, you may be wondering if bacon is red meat. The question is understandable. Pork products have been considered both red and white meat, depending on the context. Recall the popular advertising slogan “Pork.

Is red meat a healthy fat?

No, the fat in red meat is saturated and high consumption of red meat is associated with the development of chronic diseases.

Is Bacon a white meat?

This may come as a surprise to some, as bacon is often referred to as a “white meat” in culinary terms. However, the classification of meat as either red or white is based on the amount of myoglobin present in the animal’s muscle. Myoglobin is a protein that produces a red color when exposed to oxygen.

What is the difference between red meat and white meat?

Key Point: Red and white meats are similar in terms of their macronutrient profile. However, there are some differences regarding micronutrients; red meat tends to offer a greater quantity of vitamins and minerals. In addition to the nutrient profiles, meat also contains a variety of bioactive compounds that infer health benefits. These include;

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