It's hard to imagine a time when you couldn't get bacon on everything from your sandwich to your junk mail, but before about 1980, 80% of bacon was eaten at home, with normal breakfasts instead of increasingly out-of-control Omelets of Unusual Size. That year marked the beginning of the saturated fat scare when public health warnings about the dangers of fatty meats drove consumers toward tasteless chicken breasts, and bacon took a nosedive. It's the whole reason the pork industry conceived the "Pork: The Other White Meat" campaign.
It was fairly successful, but pork belly, the cut that bacon comes from, was literally piling up in warehouses, and while drowning in bacon might be your dream, it wasn't theirs. It's the largest cut of pork, meaning pig traffickers were just throwing away the physically biggest part of their business. By 2000, they couldn't afford it anymore, so they started racking their brains for solutions. They ended up joining forces with the fast-food industry, which had suffered its own image collapse after various food poisoning scandals. The resulting tendency to overcook meat, plus the obsession with lean protein, meant they were desperate for something to make their burgers edible, so they made a deal with the devil, A.K.A. marketing executives.
Hardees was the first chain to hop on board and found success with the completely opposite strategy of their competitors, i.e., the biggest, most disgusting piles of lard you can shovel into your face, but others were reluctant because bacon produces a lot of grease that quickly becomes a nightmare in any fast food kitchen, so the pork industry scrambled to innovate bacon cooking technologies and "subsidized recipe development and market research" for various fast food companies to figure out how to add bacon to their menus. In other words, they paid them.
The result was a veritable porcine explosion: the Baconator, the Bacon Whopper, "Make It Bacon." In a reverse of the usual order of things, the trend trickled up to more creative chefs, from the most gourmet bacon-wrappers to those guys who tend to use "bomb" in the names of their food. It happened right at a time when backlash against the crunchy '90s meant only the weakest specimens ate food that had to be chewed, and before we knew it, bacon lube was a thing. Despite its own inevitable backlash, bacon sales are still rising at a rate of about 10% a year, all because your healthy eating habits were hurting some rich guys' profits.
Manna, regrettably, has a Twitter.
Top image: Wright Brand Bacon/Unsplash