Where Does Turkey Bacon Come From? The Origins of This Popular Breakfast Meat

Crispy, savory turkey bacon has become a go-to breakfast food for many people looking for a leaner alternative to pork bacon. But if it doesn’t come from the belly or sides of a turkey like pork bacon comes from a pig, where does turkey bacon come from exactly?

The origins of turkey bacon may surprise you Let’s take a closer look at how this popular breakfast meat is made

Turkey Bacon Comes from Ground Turkey Parts

Turkey bacon is made by grinding and processing turkey parts, not sliced from whole turkey belly like pork bacon Here are the turkey parts typically used

  • Turkey breast meat
  • Turkey thigh meat
  • Turkey skin
  • Dark turkey meat
  • Light turkey meat

Manufacturers grind up a mix of these turkey parts to make the base for turkey bacon. Both light and dark meat is often used to replicate the marbled look of pork bacon.

Turkey thigh meat provides a fattier texture similar to pork belly. The breast meat produces a leaner texture Turkey skin adds necessary fat to the otherwise very lean meat

So while pork bacon originates from one specific fatty belly section, turkey bacon contains blended meat from various parts of the turkey.

How Turkey Parts Become Bacon

Once the turkey parts are ground up, the meat mixture goes through a multi-step process to transform into bacon:

  • Seasoning: Flavors like salt, sugar, and spices are combined into the ground turkey.

  • Curing: The seasoned meat cures in a brine solution, usually containing sodium nitrite. This gives it a bacon-like pink hue.

  • Smoking/Flavored: Natural smoke or liquid smoke flavoring is added to give that smoky bacon taste.

  • Shaping: The mixture gets pressed and shaped into thin slices resembling pork bacon strips.

  • Packaging: Slices are packaged into consumer packs.

So while whole pork belly slabs can simply be sliced into strips, turkey parts must be ground, processed, and molded to achieve a similar bacon shape and texture. The curing and smoking steps give the final product a pork-like flavor.

Is Turkey Bacon Considered Healthier?

Many people choose turkey bacon thinking it’s a healthier alternative to pork bacon. But is this really true when you look at how it’s made?

Pros of Turkey Bacon:

  • Lower in fat and calories than pork bacon
  • Made from lean turkey rather than fatty pork
  • Contains less saturated fat than pork

Cons of Turkey Bacon:

  • Lower in protein than pork bacon
  • Contains added sugars to boost flavor
  • High in sodium from curing process
  • Processed meat may increase cancer risk

Even though turkey is a leaner meat, the grinding, curing, and processing involved in making turkey bacon removes most of its nutritional benefits. The added ingredients like sugar and sodium cancel out the upside.

Moderation is key if you want to enjoy the flavor while limiting the downsides of processed meats. Stick to just an occasional serving of turkey bacon or pork bacon as part of a healthy diet.

How to Select Higher Quality Turkey Bacon

Not all turkey bacon is created equal. You can still find less processed options if you check labels and shop selectively:

  • Check ingredients: Opt for brands with few additives besides turkey, salt, and spices. Avoid added sugar.

  • Look for “uncured”: This means no sodium nitrites were used in curing.

  • Seek out nitrate-free: Nitrates have health risks even from natural sources like celery powder.

  • Choose certified organic: Organic regulations prohibit use of harmful chemicals.

  • Buy from artisanal producers: Small local brands tend to use simpler curing methods.

  • See if it’s smoked: Real hardwood smoke provides flavor instead of liquid smoke.

A little legwork can help you find a turkey bacon made in a healthier way. But remember, even then, processed meat in moderation is best.

The Takeaway on Turkey Bacon Origins

While turkey is often seen as a leaner protein than pork, buying it processed into bacon strips doesn’t automatically make it a healthier choice. The origins of most major turkey bacon brands involve grinding meat from various turkey parts, then heavily processing the mix to transform it into a bacon-like product. The addition of sugar, sodium, and preservatives outweighs many of turkey’s natural nutritional benefits. So whether you prefer the taste of turkey or pork, remember that all bacon should be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. Checking labels for simpler ingredients can help identify turkey bacon options made in a relatively less processed way. But at the end of the day, even turkey bacon still requires caution for your health.

How Turkey Bacon Is Made


What part of the turkey is turkey bacon made from?

Turkey bacon is actually made of ground-up or chopped turkey, often both white and dark meat, that’s taken from the thighs, breast, and even the skin of the bird.

Does turkey bacon come from a pig?

Turkey bacon is a meat prepared from chopped, formed, cured, and smoked turkey, commonly marketed as a low-fat alternative to pork bacon; it may also be used as a substitute for bacon where religious dietary laws (for example halal in Islam and kashrut in Judaism) forbid the consumption of pork products.

Is turkey bacon from the belly?

Traditionally, turkeys don’t have belly fat—though I’ve seen some pretty thick turkeys—so turkey bacon is made from chopped up and processed white and dark turkey meat.

Is turkey bacon raw meat?

Applegate turkey bacon is held in the smokehouse for a longer period of time than pork bacon, which starts to “set” the protein. This protein “setting” is required for accurate and consistent slicing. However Applegate turkey bacon is never considered “fully cooked” and should be treated as any other raw cut of meat.

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