For the past decade, it seemed as though the two questions dominating any new product pitch meeting for fast food corporations were: (1) "Can we add bacon to it?" and (2) "Can we add even more bacon to it?" This general ethos was summed up best last summer when Burger King finally went all the way and introduced their new dessert: A chocolate fudge and caramel-swirled vanilla ice cream sundae with crumbles of bacon sprinkled on top. The fact that this release was met not with a general reaction of shock, but instead "oh, of course they're doing that now!" is indicative of just how strongly the American people react to the crispy pork product: Bacon is King Condiment of the fast food world.
Which is what makes this recent news that Burger King will not be using bacon in any of their products at their new South African store kind of compelling.
The reason BK reps have given regarding this curious decision is that the country's religious demographics demand it. Nearly 13 percent of the South Africa's 48 million citizens are either members of the Zion Christian Church, Muslims, or Jews, all religious groups that don't eat pork according to their customs. (This deity-forced dietary discretion actually came in handy recently during a meat contamination scandal in the country.) As such, Burger King felt it wasn't appropriate to put forbidden food on the menu, saying it "respects South Africa's multicultural society and doesn't want to limit its customers."
Now, there's certainly no doubt Burger King's intentions have little to do with good karma and everything to do with their bottom line. If they crunched their numbers and figured that selling bacon in the South African store would make more money than it would lose them, no doubt this wouldn't even be a story. But whether it was because they were worried about offending 13% of their customer base, or simply because it was cost prohibitive to ship boxes of bacon into Cape Town, the fact is, Burger King is going bacon-less in one of their restaurants. And that's a big deal. At the very least, it gives us a chance to reconsider our country's strange and creepy love affair with bacon.
The whole thing started back in the '90s when the Atkins Diet was all the rage, where users cut down on their consumption of carbs and instead ate protein-laden meals. This led to bacon re-entering the cultural consciousness again, while being given the stamp of approval from the most popular diet around. However, and this is the important part: Bacon isn't very good for you. It never was, it never will be.
As this recent article from the Guardian reports, a person who has a diet heavy in processed meats like bacon has a 72% higher risk of death from heart disease, and a 11% higher risk of death from cancer. Sure, maybe bacon's not as bad for you as beef is, but saying it's actually good for you is like saying that filtered cigarettes are healthy. Maybe they won't give you lung cancer as quickly as the unfiltered ones, but it's probably best to just stop smoking altogether.
The point is, once again: Everything in moderation. And one thing Americans are certainly not moderate about is their bacon consumption. So maybe this news from Burger King can be used as a kind of wake-up call that, really folks, we don't need to eat as much bacon as we do. It's not healthy, it's not necessary, and for the love of all that's holy, just look at how stupid cute these pigs are:
Maybe it's time we all said "hold the bacon" a little more often.