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For the Love of Bacon!


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From the eMagazine MeatPoultry:

[h3]Bacon Report[/h3]
[h2]For the love of BACON[/h2]

[h2]Bacon-themed restaurants capitalize on the meat’s popularity[/h2][h4]BY LARRY AYLWARD
[email protected][/h4]

People might think that Jed Taylor boarded the bacon bandwagon when he and three friends opened their Austin, Texas-based restaurant known simply as: Bacon, about two years ago. The bacon craze seemed to be at a crescendo then, and the bacon bandwagon was crowding and rolling merrily along.

Taylor doesn’t deny the timing was right to open Bacon, but he wants it to be a fixture in Austin’s cuisine scene for years to come.

“The concept already had a lot to push it,” Taylor says. “But we don’t want to be the place that’s known for having the crazy bacon concoction of the week.”

John Berryhill, owner and chef of Bacon Breakfast, Bistro and Bloody Marys in Boise, Idaho, understands where Taylor is coming from. Berryhill, who also owns Berryhill & Co., a fine-dining restaurant in Boise, opened his bacon-themed restaurant about two years ago.

“There’s nothing we’re doing that’s shtick,” he says. “I don’t want to do it that way.”

Austin’s Bacon is located in a descript, yellow building that features a neon sign touting “Bacon.” Its menu features an array of affordable breakfast plates, salads, sandwiches and appetizers featuring the iconic meat.

Berryhill’s restaurant is more upscale, but just as affordable. It features bacon varieties sold by the slice in addition to breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and sides featuring bacon.

Taylor and Berryhill say their restaurants are performing well after two years, although they didn’t release sales figures. Paul Perfilio, national foodservice marketing manager for the Pork Checkoff, isn’t surprised at all.

“People have shown an incredible appetite for all things bacon,” Perfilio says on the Pork Checkoff’s website.

Recent statistics, according to Perfilio, show that 69 percent of all foodservice operators purchase bacon, and that the foodservice market uses more than 1.7 billion lbs. of bacon per year.

But Taylor’s and Berryhill’s restaurants aren’t going overboard with their menu options.

“We have staple items that people already enjoy with bacon,” Taylor states.

Says Berryhill: “We want to be as edgy as we can, but we want [our products] to sell.”
[h4]Texas sizzle[/h4]
Taylor and Bacon’s other three owners attended high school together. They saw an opportunity for the restaurant’s concept and after much research decided to give it a try.

Taylor, a graphic designer, had solid insight into Austin’s restaurant and nightlife scene, having designed many menus. Taylor figured the secret to success was to keep the concept and the menu simple. He also knew that bacon is a staple item .

“You can eat it every day,” Taylor says.

Bacon’s owners wanted to make great bacon, not offer wacky weekly products with no staying power.

Aware of Austin diners’ trendy and diverse tastes, Bacon also offers vegan options on its menu, such as its black bean burger.

“Austin is a quirky place, and it’s great to have a place like Bacon make it here,” Taylor says.

The restaurant usually offers two flavors of bacon daily. Recently, it offered a Tabasco-flavored bacon. It also offers bacon with a chili rub flavor and strips rubbed with Old Bay Seasoning. The restaurant hickory-smokes all of its bacon in an on-site smoker.

“We smoke twice a week to keep up with production, and we smoke 60 to 120 lbs. every smoke,” Taylor says.

Taylor likes to purchase pork bellies locally, and he buys from processors who track raw product origination.

Bacon’s owners hired two local chefs to teach them how to prepare their bacon-infused dishes. Then they hired “great cooks” to prepare the dishes, Taylor says.

They didn’t want a chef running their restaurant.

“There’s enough of that in Austin,” Taylor says.

The restaurant’s signature item is chicken and waffles, which includes bacon inside the waffle. Other items feature bacon front and center. The double grind burger is a ground steak and bacon blend – 65 percent beef and 35 percent bacon.

Taylor says it took time to find the right combination of proteins. Originally, it featured a 50-50 blend of beef and bacon, which resulted in a dry product after cooking.

The Bacon Reuben features corned bacon, which has a white color to it because of the brine in which it’s marinated. Some people confuse the white meat color with fat, which it’s not.

“After you taste it you’re blown away,” Taylor assures.
[h4]Bacon takes Boise[/h4]

Berryhill’s Bacon Restaurant actually got its start in 1995. That’s when Berryhill cooked his first strip of Berryhill Bacon, which features a chile-sugar dry rub. The bacon gained a following at Berryhill & Co.’s fine but casual dining restaurant in downtown Boise.

“Over the years, people always liked it,” Berryhill says. “So when we were deciding on a concept for a breakfast-lunch place, it just seemed natural.”

Berryhill devised the recipe, which sports a slightly hot and spicy taste to go with the sweetness that comes from the sugar that’s caramelized during the cooking process. It’s the most popular flavored bacon on the menu.

But it’s not the only one. The restaurant also offers spicy hot-, herb-, maple-rosemary-, candied- and chocolate-flavored bacon. For nonmeat eaters, the restaurant serves vegetarian bacon made from fermented soybeans.

The chocolate bacon isn’t as far out as one might think, but the key is to not overdo it, Berryhill says. For instance, his restaurant’s version isn’t 50-50 on the bacon and the chocolate, which Berryhill says would be too much chocolate. The bacon is just drizzled with chocolate.

Signature items on the menu include the Kurobuta bacon mac, a penne pasta baked with Kurobuta bacon, and four cheeses. The dish received a top food award from Food & Wine magazine last year.

Two popular menu items are the scrambled burrito, featuring cheesy steamed eggs, salsa fresca, roasted potatoes and Berryhill bacon wrapped in a flour tortilla; and the turkey and Berryhill bacon sandwich, featuring roasted turkey, Berryhill bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato and pesto mayo on a sourdough baguette.

Berryhill is careful not to be too progressive with his restaurant’s bacon offerings. He points out that Idaho is a very conservative state and one of the reddest states in the union.

“Boise is pretty much 10 years behind on everything,” he says. “We just got rid of bell bottoms a few years ago.”

But Berryhill doesn’t want to be too conventional with the restaurant’s offerings, either. He says he didn’t open the restaurant to take advantage of the bacon furor of the past few years.

“But we lucked out with our timing,” he admits.

Berryhill prefers pork bellies with “a good cap on them.” But he doesn’t require any particular marbling like he would from something like wagyu beef.

Consistency is the key, Berryhill notes. He wants the right amount of fat for taste, but not too much fat. Berryhill also takes into consideration what impact that smoking will have on the product.

“The longer you smoke it, the more flavor you’re going to add, but the more fat you will lose,” he says.

It took about a year for the restaurant to find its footing, Berryhill says, but he’s confident it will have staying power.

“We had to figure out what was working within the concept,” he says. “We want to make sure this is something that will last and not just be a fad.”

There’s a message from Berryhill on the restaurant’s menu: “The BACON bistro was born for those who love bacon. It was born for you.”

It’s probably safe to say there will always be bacon lovers.

Larry Aylward is a freelance writer based in Medina, Ohio.
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[h3]  [/h3]
[h3]  [/h3][h3]Bacon Report[/h3]

[h2]Bacon evolves as an ingredient with culinary credibility[/h2]

[email protected][/h4]

There’s no doubt that bacon’s popularity has exceeded our wildest imagination. How about bacon vodka, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, syrup, lollipops, baby food and flavored salt just to mention a few places where bacon flavor has appeared? But do we really need bacon-flavored envelopes, air fresheners, diet cola, toothpaste, mouthwash or condoms?

Obviously, people love the flavor of bacon and gobble up the novelty items, but there are many more ways to use bacon that I find more acceptable, and delicious. Even during the time when bacon’s most-common appearance was alongside eggs or pancakes, cooks have been using bacon to enhance their cooking in all occasions and dishes from appetizers, salads, soups, pastas, sandwiches, stews, sauces, dressings and stuffings to desserts and garnishes.

But with the huge and growing popularity of bacon, savvy cooks have expanded and innovated their use of bacon even more. Unless you never eat out, buy a cookbook or read food magazines and newspaper food sections, you can’t ignore the widespread use of bacon. At the foodservice segment, bacon’s appearance on menus has grown steadily for several years and grew 7 percent in 2012.
[h4]What about the bacon?[/h4]
I will allude to various flavor profiles to change the flavor of the bacon and there are many choices. But to make the finest bacon, you need to turn back the clock to the old methods. This is what I have done for Vande Rose Farms, a small Iowa company specializing in pork from Duroc pigs.

For me, great bacon begins with great pork and the Duroc breed couldn’t be a better candidate. The bellies are large, thick and have a great ratio of fat to lean meat. The Duroc pigs I use are raised on small family farms without antibiotics and they are fed an all-vegetarian diet.

The raw bellies have a deep-red color, great flavor and exceptional tenderness. Let’s just say the pig has made the largest contribution to ensure great-tasting bacon. All that is left for me is to apply the right mixture of salt, brown sugar and a little black pepper to the bellies adding a bit of saltiness and sweetness without masking the inherent porky flavors.

Finally, the bellies are smoked with a mixture of applewood, maple and oak to give a rich smoke without overpowering. Bacon like this is ideal to cook with because it adds rich bacon flavor to a dish without being overpowering with too much smoke, saltiness or sweetness. Whole slabs are the preferred choice sold to chefs while 12-oz. packs of thick-cut slices (10-12 slices per lb.) are preferred at retail.
[h4]Opportunities for innovation[/h4]
There are so many uses for bacon. I’m only going to mention a few specific ones and instead make suggestions to help the savvy-bacon processor to find new opportunities and product innovations that can help expand their bacon sales by fulfilling the growing applications.

Breakfast|brunch opportunities – Besides the many egg dishes that incorporate bacon, such as omelets and shirred eggs, small cubes of bacon are incorporated into pancakes, waffles, muffins, turnovers, quick breads and breakfast pizzas. These small cubes are particularly desirable in corn pancakes and waffles, potato pancakes and hash browns.

The opportunity here is to produce small cubes (about one-quarter inch square) of lightly browned bacon, not crumbled bacon, which lacks character and texture. Once browned and drained, they can be individually quick frozen (IQF) and sold frozen in bags. These cubes can also be coated with various sweet glazes using maple syrup, brown sugar, fruit juices, soy, sweet mustard or many other flavors.

Appetizers/Hors d’oeuvres – Thin-sliced, narrow strips of bacon can be wrapped around small chunks of sweet or savory foods. The classic is rumaki; chunks of poultry liver and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon with a sweet soy glaze. Other popular choices are dates, prunes, figs, dried apricots or pineapple.

Strips of bacon or pancetta (Italian spice-flavored bacon) can also be wrapped around seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, oysters or mussels plus wrapped around chicken cubes, sausage or chicken wings. Vegetables such as squash, asparagus or even radishes are also good pairings. The opportunity for the bacon producer is to sell thinly sliced, narrow bacon strips one-half inch wide by 5-inch long in small packages.

Other popular appetizers are kebabs consisting of small chunks of bacon skewered with seafood, meats, vegetables, fruits and even bread. Since the bacon often takes longer to cook than the other ingredients on the skewer it would be great to have bacon chunks one-half inch by 1-inch by 1-inch that have already been fully cooked and lightly browned at the processing plant. They would be sold IQF and bagged. For those wanting to cut their own pre-cooked and browned, half-inch thick, fully cooked bacon slices could be sold as well.

Salads – Bacon has found its way into many different salads from the classic spinach salad to the French salad, Frisee Lyonnaise. Many combinations of salad greens, kales, fruits, eggs, nuts and vegetables made into a salad can be greatly enhanced with the addition of bacon.

The classic form for using bacon is what the French call Lardons, which are small rectangular finger shaped strips of bacon. In France, they are sold in every supermarket in sealed plastic trays. Not only are Lardons used in salads, they are also popular in soups, stews, braises and used to flavor cooked vegetables. I think there is a real opportunity to sell bacon as Lardons in the US because they now have so many uses in popular American recipes as well. Since most recipes call for a small amount of bacon (one-quarter to one-half of a lb.), the most practical idea would be to sell them in small 8-oz. trays.

Sauces – Bacon-flavored mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, mustard and dips are already sold in the retail marketplace. Unless you, as a bacon producer, want to get into the sauce business, it would be better to sell bacon as an ingredient to an existing sauce company or work with them to produce a co-branded sauce. This could also be a possible market for rendered bacon fat.

Soups, pastas and stews – Bacon is used in many versions of these dishes from the classic Italian Pasta Carbonara to the French Coq au Vin. The opportunity is to provide pre-cooked lardoons either partially or fully cooked.

The other opportunity is to vary the flavor profile of the bacon to accommodate a particular cuisine. For Chinese dishes, add hoisin, soy, ginger and five spice to the cure. For Italian dishes, add balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary to the cure. And for Spanish dishes, rub down the pork bellies with Spanish paprika (pimento de la vera) and add sherry to the cure.
[h4]Endless options[/h4]
Turkey breast is still one of the most popular luncheon meats. Why not smear a mixture of ground bacon on double butterflied turkey breast then roll and tie so when cooked there will be a jelly roll look of bacon.

Some companies have already hit the market with bacon-flavored hot dogs and sausages. But instead of mixing bacon in the meat blend, which makes it difficult for the bacon flavors to be expressed, why not make a co-extruded sausage with ground bacon in the interior? For variation, the bacon could also be mixed with cheese.

It seems that the bacon craze isn’t going anywhere for now, which means chefs can continue to create most delicacies featuring bacon.

Bruce Aidells founded Aidells Sausage Co. in 1983. He left the company in 2002 and is a food writer for consumer publications and the author of 12 cookbooks, including, “The Great Meat Cookbook.” He also works as a consultant to food companies, and hosts “Good Cookin’” on the Live Well Network.


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Joined Jul 23, 2008

[h3]Business Notes[/h3]
[h2]Smithfield shareholders approve Shuanghui buyout[/h2]

More than 96 percent of Smithfield Foods Inc. shareholders voted to approve a proposed acquisition of the company by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.

A special meeting of shareholders was held Sept. 24 in Richmond, Va. The votes cast in favor of the deal represent approximately 76 percent of Smithfield’s total outstanding shares of common stock.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s vote and thank all of our shareholders for their support,” said C. Larry Pope, president and CEO of Smithfield. “This is a great transaction for all Smithfield stakeholders, as well as for American farmers and US agriculture. The partnership is all about growth, and about doing more business at home and abroad. It will remain business as usual – only better – at Smithfield, and we look forward to embarking on this new chapter.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Shuanghui will acquire all of Smithfield’s outstanding shares for $34 per share in cash. Once the deal closes, Smithfield’s common stock will cease to be publicly traded and the company will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shuanghui International operating as Smithfield Foods. The agreement is subject to customary closing conditions, but the company expected to complete the acquisition by Sept. 26.

The affirming vote came after one shareholder, Starboard Value LP, failed to assemble a higher bid. The company threatened to vote against the acquisition on concerns that the deal undervalued Smithfield. But Starboard, which owns a 5.7 percent stake in Smithfield, announced Sept. 20 that the New York-based hedge fund had failed to find a better offer.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Starboard Value said: “While we are confident that the Issuer could have received value in excess of that available pursuant to the proposed merger, we are not able to offer shareholders an alternative proposal at this time. Therefore, at this time, unless another proposal emerges, we plan on voting in favor of the proposed merger.”

At least one shareholder, David Payne, sued to stop the acquisition, and several law firms launched investigations into Smithfield’s board of directors to determine whether it breached its fiduciary duties to stockholders by failing to shop the company before entering into the agreement.

But Smithfield and Shuanghui scored several victories. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the proposed acquisition on Sept. 6; and two proxy firms – Toronto, Ontario-based Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services – recommended shareholders approve the buyout.
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