TruTV’s comedy series “Adam Ruins Everything” starring Adam Conover has exposed the meat industry’s bacon “conspiracy.” The series also runs on Netflix. The show is based on a YouTube series on CollegeHumor of the same name, also starring Conover.
In an episode from earlier this year, entitled “How Big Meat Made Bacon a Meme,” Conover explain the history of bacon and its relationship with popular culture.
According to Conover, it all started back in the 1980s. The U.S. Pork Board could sell its lean cuts with ease, but the fattier parts were undesirable to “fat-phobic” ’80s consumers.
This is where the fast-food industry stepped in. Bob Archery – the former president of Southern and Midwestern burger chain Hardee’s – met with the Pork Board’s national marketing manager in Orlando. Together they came up with a plan to pitch bacon to the masses. Archery reportedly stated during the meeting, “I’m gonna come up with a sandwich with the grease dripping down their chin and we’ll see what they say.”
True to his word, the hit Frisco burger was born, set with melted Swiss cheese and “sizzling” bacon. Seeing Hardee’s success, other fast food chains like Wendy’s and Burger King subsequently launched their own copycat menu items. The fast-food trend continues with bacon as the poster meat for indulgence; fast-food giant McDonald’s is reportedly set to introduce Cheesy Bacon Fries as well as a Big Mac Bacon Burger and a Quarter Pounder Bacon Burger this month.
The boom of bacon in the fast food industry has led to a “pop cultural phenomenon,” notes Conover, with bacon-themed soda, t-shirts, bars, condiments, and even bandages sitting on shelves in stores across the U.S. Hearing all of this, Conover’s co-star asks, “I build my whole personality around liking bacon because the pork board told me to?”
What’s Wrong With Bacon?
To create its “bacon bonanza,” according to Conover, the Pork Board hid some crucial facts about the processed meat’s health risks, which is now classified by leading health organizations as a known carcinogen.
As well as increasing the risk of cancer — just one bacon sandwich a day could reportedly increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 20 percent — the host explains that bacon is also linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
“But big meat is fighting like hell to make sure you don’t hear about it,” he says, explaining that the pork industry has known about the health risks of processed meat since the 1970s.
But the industry, he notes, has consistently pressured the USDA into downplaying the risks of its consumption.
Is Vegan Bacon a Thing?
Not only is bacon linked to a number of diseases, but it’s also unsustainable and requires a pig to be slaughtered for its production.
Cruelty-free vegan versions of bacon can be made out of a variety of plant-based foods, such as coconuts, mushrooms, and seitan (wheat gluten). Unlike the consumption of processed meat, many studies have linked plant-based foods to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.