Bacon Is Packaged That Way To Trick You

Years ago, bacon makers were embarrassed by the fat.
Bacon Is Packaged That Way To Trick You

Bacon comes in a very specific type of package. Like so many meats, bacon's wrapped in tight plastic, but the slices aren't all piled on top of each other to make a big block. Instead, they're layered over each other so each slice only partially overlaps the one below it. This is called a shingle pack, after shingles on a roof, and you can right now close your eyes and picture the feeling of running your fingers along those ridges.

This arrangement gives a misleading look at the package's contents. Each strip of raw bacon has some red meat and a bunch of white fat. But the way the slices are layered, you see the red part of every single slice without a whole lot of white. It makes the bacon look a lot leaner than it is.

Now, you probably don't feel cheated by this. For starters, you know perfectly well what bacon looks like, so you don't care what the package shows. Also, all you have to do is flip the shingle pack over, and you can get a broader look at the bacon fat through a window in the packaging. But you might be interested to learn that that window on the back is mandated by law, because until manufacturers included it, the USDA ruled that shingle packs were deceiving customers. 

The law came in 1973 and is still around. "Packages for sliced bacon that have a transparent opening shall be designed to expose, for viewing, the cut surface of a representative slice," it says. "For shingle-packed sliced bacon, the transparent window shall be designed to reveal at least 70 percent of the length (longest dimension) of the representative slice, and this window shall be at least 1-1/2 inches wide."

For a couple decades before that, bacon makers were counting on leaner meat attracting sales. This was a simpler time, when good meat was more of a luxury, and people used to add all kinds of gross fillers to dishes because they simply couldn't afford all the meat they wanted. Today, the trickery of the shingle pack and the oversight at the back are both unnecessary relics. We're all capable of buying lean meat if we want, but we buy bacon because we like the fat. 

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Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see. 

Top image: Kjetil Ree

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