Bacon is a bit of a British passion. It’s brown sauce’s best friend, and features in both the fry-up and bacon butty. But have you ever seen it leak white and watery mush? It’s all down to added water…
Although it’s safe to say that this guilty pleasure is practically a household staple, for a while now I’ve found that my bacon seems to be shrinking, leaving me with a white, watery mush in the pan.
How much meat is in your bacon?
Bacon contains water, but under the Meat Products Regulations, uncooked cured meat products, like bacon, that have more than 10% added water should state this in its name – such as ‘Bacon with Added Water’.
Now, you won’t actually find that on a packet of bacon, so that means it should contain less than 10% added water. You can judge roughly how much there is by looking at the meat content – dry-cure bacon for instance commonly contains up to 97% pork and no water, whereas a cheaper cut will contain 87% pork in the ingredients list.
However, when we tested bacon in a lab, we found that some common supermarket bacon, in both the ‘standard’ and ‘value’ ranges, exceeded 10% water.
What about burgers, pies and sausage rolls?
At least bacon is mostly meat though. The regulations also lay out the minimum meat content for other products – these are even more surprising.
Take a sausage roll for instance. To me, they’re roughly half pastry, half meat. Under the regulations, an actual sausage only has to contain 32% meat (unless it has ‘pork’ in the name, in which case we’re up to 42%). But as for my sausage roll, it only needs to have a measly 6% meat to use that name. And it’s the same story for pastries and pasties, except meat pies, which must have 12.5%.
Burgers are another surprising one. I was initially reassured by the 67% meat content requirement, but that drops to 55% for a chicken burger, and 50% if it’s an ‘economy burger’.
Since I’ve learnt all this I’ve started going upmarket for my bacon, and continued my policy of staying away from burgers and cheap sausages.
But what do you think? Did you know bacon contains added water and now that you do, do you think the above meat-content limits are too low?