Why Is There No Beef Bacon? The Mysterious Case of the Missing Meat

Bacon is arguably one of the most beloved breakfast foods. The salty, smoky flavor of sizzling pork bacon is practically synonymous with mornings. But what about beef bacon? If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t easily find beef bacon next to the pork bacon at the grocery store, you’re not alone.

As a bacon lover and curios meat enthusiast I was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. Why has pork bacon dominated while beef bacon remains elusive? What are the challenges of producing beef bacon? And most importantly – what does beef bacon taste like? I decided to dig in and uncover everything there is to know about the enigmatic world of beef bacon.

A Brief History of Bacon: Why Pork Has Dominated

To understand why pork reigns supreme when it comes to bacon, we have to look at the history of the beloved breakfast meat. Bacon has been around for centuries, with early forms being created in China as far back as 1500 BC. The pigs that bacon is made from were domesticated by 4900 BC and rapidly spread through Europe.

The word “bacon” comes from the Proto-Germanic word “bakkon,” meaning “back meat.” While we now associate bacon with pork, it can technically be made from other meats like beef, lamb, and turkey. However, pigs became the preferred livestock for bacon production.

Pigs possess layers of fat and muscle in their belly region that lend themselves perfectly to bacon production. The pork belly can be cured or smoked to create signature bacon flavor and texture. Over centuries of bacon making, certain pork cuts and curing techniques became tied to regions and countries, creating distinct styles like American or British bacon.

By the 20th century, pork belly reigned supreme as the cut of choice for bacon in the US. With pigs so ideally suited for bacon production, it’s no wonder pork has dominated the bacon game for so long. Beef just can’t compete with generations of tradition and pork belly perfection.

What Exactly Is Beef Bacon?

Since beef doesn’t have a cut of meat directly comparable to pork belly, beef bacon can be made from a few different parts of the cow. Brisket, round, or chuck are often used to produce a leaner beef bacon. The beef belly is also an option, but far less common.

When sliced and prepared like traditional bacon, beef produces strips that look quite similar to pork bacon in appearance. However, side by side, you may notice the beef version is a bit darker in color and thicker The most noticeable difference is in the fat content Pork bacon is 50% fat while beef bacon ranges from 5-15% fat, making it a leaner alternative.

In terms of flavor beef and pork bacon differ significantly. While we expect bacon to be salty, smoky and rich, beef bacon tends to be drier and chewier. The fat content and type of cut means less juicy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The flavor is more mildly beefy than the robust porkiness we associate with bacon.

The Challenges of Crafting Beef Bacon

With such a different flavor and texture, it’s not surprising that beef bacon has struggled to catch on. Bacon traditionalists simply prefer the taste of cured and smoked pork. But the challenges go far beyond just consumer taste preference.

One of the biggest obstacles for producers is finding the right cut of beef that can approximate pork belly. While brisket or round work well for creating a lean bacon, they lack the fat marbling that allows pork bacon to caramelize and crisp up perfectly. The inconsistent fat content makes it harder to replicate the pork bacon experience consumers expect.

There are also difficulties around achieving proper marbling and a smoked flavor when working with lean beef cuts. Special equipment and processes are needed to mimic the results cured pork belly can easily produce. This makes beef bacon costlier and more labor intensive to create.

Religious dietary restrictions provide another layer of complexity for beef bacon producers. Many observant Jews and Muslims who avoid pork look for beef bacon as an alternative. However, certifying beef bacon as kosher or halal requires strict adherence to protocols that further drive up production costs. This makes the target market for beef bacon smaller and more niche.

While some regional producers have found success catering to local preferences and restrictions, these challenges have prevented beef bacon from becoming as widely popular or accessible nationwide. Pork’s long history and advantages for bacon production mean beef still can’t compete on a large scale.

Is Beef Bacon Worth a Try? The Verdict is…

Despite the obstacles, specialty producers have continued crafting beef bacon for those curious to try it. For seasoned bacon lovers, beef bacon probably won’t satisfy a true bacon craving. The lean nature of beef and lack of fat means you lose the melt-in-your-mouth feel and full bacon flavor. Beef bacon is milder, drier, and chewier.

However, fans of beef say that when done right, beef bacon can have a pleasantly meaty, smoky character all its own. If you seek out artisan options smoked over real wood fires, the flavors can be robust and enjoyable. Those avoiding pork for dietary reasons also appreciate having a handy substitute.

Beef bacon proves to be one of those foods that comes down to personal taste. If you can’t imagine anything beating a traditional pork bacon sizzle, then beef likely won’t measure up. But for those open to something new, beef bacon provides an interesting alternative and seems to be slowly growing in popularity.

While it probably won’t dethrone pork belly any time soon, beef bacon occupies an intriguing specialty niche. We may see more small producers pop up catering to this alternative bacon market. But when it comes to classic American breakfasts, pork will likely continue to reign supreme.

So while the mystery of the missing beef bacon may never be fully solved, we can chalk it up to pork’s savory superiority and generations of tradition. But next time you browse the bacon section, consider grabbing a pack of beef bacon for an interesting new flavor to wake up your mornings!

How to Make Beef Bacon | The Bearded Butchers


Is there a such thing as beef bacon?

Simply put, beef bacon is a variation of regular bacon made from beef rather than pork. Pork bacon is generally made from sliced pork belly. Like traditional bacon, beef bacon can also be made from the beef belly. However, it can also be made from the brisket or round for leaner options.

Can you get beef bacon?

Butchered from 100% grass fed cattle, Tom Hixson beef bacon offers a unique depth of flavour, developed in close collaboration with our expert producers. This beef bacon is frozen. It could begin to thaw out during the delivery process. Therefore we do not advise refreezing it once you receive it.

Why can’t you make bacon from beef?

The problem is that cows don’t have a cow equivalent of pork belly, which is the cut of pig that’s commonly used to make bacon. The belly of the cow is used in the US at any rate to make brisket, plate (the source of beef short ribs) and flank.

What is another name for beef bacon?

Also called navel brisket and beef plate, beef belly is the same cut of the pig traditional pork bacon is made from. As they have a similar fat composition, it can be used as a substitute for brisket to make beef navel pastrami and other salumi.

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