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7 Bacon Brands That Use The Lowest Quality Ingredients

These bacon brands' low-quality ingredients include additives that can be harmful to your health.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

Piled high on burgers, served with eggs, or enjoyed with loaded baked potatoes—bacon just screams salty flavor. It's one of those foods that tastes great with pretty much anything. However, bacon does not come without its cons. For starters, mass-produced bacon is often injected with chemical additives, including potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate, which are used as both preservatives and fillers. Also, according to research, bacon (along with other processed meats) has been linked to an increased risk of disease, dementia, and even male infertility.

"Bacon can be made with additives, fillers, flavorings, and other ingredients that many of us don't want in our diets," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility.

To help you decide which bacon to pick up the next time you're at the grocery store, and which to avoid, here are seven bacon brands that use low-quality ingredients.

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Great Value Naturally Hickory Smoked Thick-Sliced Bacon

Great Value Bacon
Courtesy of Walmart

Great Value Bacon, which is often sold at stores such as Walmart, is cheaper for a reason—it's not high-quality. One of the first ingredients listed is "water," which can be a clear indicator that you're getting a "pumped" or low-quality product.

This brand's bacon is also packed with additives like sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, and sodium phosphate, which may have negative effects on your health. For example, studies have discovered that higher levels of sodium phosphate in the body have been linked to vascular damage and accelerated aging.

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Oscar Mayer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon

Oscar Mayer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon
Courtesy of Oscar Mayer

Yes, Oscar Mayer has a line of natural cold cuts that are made with zero nitrites or nitrates, but their Hardwood Bacon is another story.

Don't let the word "naturally" throw you off. Oscar Mayer's Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon is full of unnatural ingredients, including sodium nitrite, an additive you definitely want to watch out for. Sodium nitrite, which is often used to flavor and color meat, has been linked to higher risks of developing colorectal cancer, as well as breast and prostate cancer.

This product's packaging also gives zero information about the animals it's sourced from, such as what they were fed and how they were treated.

Jamestown Brand Sliced Bacon

Jamestown Brand Sliced
Courtesy of Insta Cart

Jamestown Brand makes meat products such as pork sausage and bacon, and they can be found at many grocery stores across the country. Even though your taste buds may feel good after eating these strips, you won't be happy to hear that this bacon is made with two troubling ingredients we've mentioned above: sodium nitrate and sodium phosphate. Instead of falling for this pesky sodium duo, look for bacon made without these preservatives.

Hormel Black Label Bacon

Hormel Black Label Bacon

Hormel's Black Label Bacon may be delicious, but its low-quality ingredients leave much to be desired. It's made with additives sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite, and it also contains dextrose.

Another name for corn sugar, dextrose is an added sugar that is commonly used as a sweetener or preservative and is known for its high glycemic index. When added sugars like dextrose are consumed in excess amounts, they have the potential to cause weight gain, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

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Kunzler Black Forest Sliced Bacon

Kunzler Black Forest Sliced Bacon
Courtesy of kunzler

Kunzler's Black Forest Sliced Bacon has ingredients in it that seem not only unnecessary but also unhealthy, with additives such as gelatin, corn starch, and caramel coloring. Corn starch, which is a refined carbohydrate often used as a thickening agent, is known for being high in calories and carbohydrates, and low in vitamins and nutrients.

As mentioned previously, ingredients such as sodium phosphate and sodium nitrite, which are also included in Kunzler's, may not have the best impact on our health when consumed consistently, and therefore make this a fairly low-quality bacon choice.

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Smithfield Hometown Original Bacon

Smithfield Hometown Original

Chemical additives, such as sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite, make another appearance in this Smithfield bacon option. Water, sugar, and salt also take the first, second, and third ingredient spots, which means that you may want to steer clear.

Instead, choose uncured bacon that's free of any additives and has fewer ingredients listed on the label.

McCormick Bac'n Bits

McCormick Bac'n Bits
Courtesy of McCormick

Don't be fooled, McCormick Bac'n Bits—the tasty topping that usually appears on baked potatoes—actually contains zero bacon in it. In reality, it's made of texturized soy flour, canola oil, and artificial flavoring. It also contains disodium guanylate, which is a common food additive used to enhance flavor. Although this additive is safe in moderation, people who suffer from gout or uric acid kidney stones should especially avoid it because it can cause elevated levels of uric acid in the body. If you're craving bacon bits, it's healthier to just make your own at home using organic bacon that's low in sodium and contains no preservatives or additives, instead.

Identifying high-quality bacon options

man cooking bacon and eggs

"Leaning into high-quality bacon choices can help people get that satisfying flavor, while also avoiding the ingredients that are linked to unsavory side effects," says Manaker.

When looking for high-quality bacon, it's best to go for bacon that's labeled "organic," which means that the animal was raised humanely, fed 100% organic feed, and was not given antibiotics or hormones. Buying bacon from local butchers or farmer's markets instead of large corporations that mass produce the stuff can also result in purchasing higher-quality products.

Additionally, you should opt for bacon that is uncured, which means that it has not been commercially prepared using salt and sodium nitrites. Uncured bacon is prepared using celery—which has its own natural nitrites, sea salt, and other flavorings from herbs and extracts. You can also look for bacon brands that are completely free of nitrates and nitrites.

A previous version of this story was published on August 4, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.

Brittany Natale
Brittany Natale is a food and lifestyle writer. Read more about Brittany
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