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Chemical fly in the oinkment

By Squinter

A CORRESPONDENT – ‘Pig-Ignorant’ – texts the paper this week complaining about some bacon he bought for his Saturday morning fry-up. He’s unhappy first of all about the fact that the bacon had an irridiscent sheen when he removed it from the packaging – a bit like diesel oil in a roadside puddle. And secondly, he’s not best pleased by the fact that the bacon shrivelled up to half its size and disappeared in a sea of white goo.

Not surprisingly, he’s keen to know just what’s going on here; and just as unsurprisingly, Squinter’s the guy to tell  him.

The first thing that needs to be said is that he almost certainly bought cheap bacon. The old saying ‘Buy cheap buy twice’ is applicable in many contexts, but nowhere more than in the world of pigs and pork, where the concept of bacon is viewed very differently by different producers. The one thing they all have in common is the basic product, ie cuts of pork from the side and back of the pig cured with large quantities of salt. It’s what happens to the meat before it’s turned into bacon that determines how it turns out on the pan.

Producers of cheap and nasty bacon are in the habit of injecting the pork with large amounts of water to increase its bulk and weight (it often happens with chicken too). But they can’t naturally inject as much water as they’d like to because the carcass will only naturally accept so much H2O. So this is where we say hello to our new friend, the polyphosphate. This is injected into the meat before the water as the substance acts as a kind of sponge, allowing the carcass to retain much larger quantities of water. Of course, the guys in the white coats with the syringes will tell you that the water is injected to make the meat juicier and not to increase profits. You can make your own mind up on that.

The food industry is in agreement that the more polyphosphate in your bacon, the mankier it’s going to taste. And a second side-effect of injecting polyphosphates into pork is that rainbow sheen on bacon rashers that Pig-Ignorant texted the Andytown News about; the more chemical, the brighter the rainbow.

The good news is that you can spot rainbow bacon via the see-through packaging if you hold it under the supermarket light and move it around a bit. Oh, and the polyphosphate is included in the ingredients. And if after all that you decide to go ahead and save a quid or so by buying cheap bacon, you mustn’t be surprised when the bacon shrivels up, or when the water gushes sizzling out of the meat to mix with fat, producing that white goo that engulfs the poor rasher.

Squinter was going to go on and explain a bit about the nitrates in bacon that keep it looking pink even when nature turned it a different colour a long time ago. But that’s enough bacon-shakin’ fakin’ breakin’ for one day.

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