We admit; it’s confusing. “Uncured Bacon?” Is it raw? Will it have the smoke flavor? Our Uncured Bacons and Hams actually ARE cured! So why do we have “UN-cured” on the label?
It all has to do with federal food regulations that have established a standard of identity for common foods. We like having “truth in labeling laws” but the downside is that lawmaking / updating is clunky and slow, far beyond the rapid pace of food marketing and consumer preference.
Essentially, the word BACON is defined in federal code as being cured with sodium nitrites and heat treated, or smoked. If I produce a bacon and don’t want to include sodium nitrate in the cure ingredients, then it can no longer be called bacon, as it doesn’t meet the standard of identity.
Now obviously, it would be nice if the US Dept of Agriculture could update their standard of identities, and create a category for bacons and ham that could be maybe called “Naturally Cured” or something a bit less confusing than “Un-Cured”… but you know, the USDA feels like they have more pressing issues.
While it’s nice to know why the Baumans label their cured hams “uncured”, the real question remains: Why do we do it?
Making our Hams and Bacon “uncured” takes a lot of extra effort and expense. The ingredients are more expensive and it has to cool down when removed from the smokehouse 3 times faster than classically cured meats.
Nitrite is, however, an important ingredient in smoked meats, as a preservative. (Because smoking is a form of preserving) We replace sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate in our cures with Celery Juice Powder. This is exactly what it sounds like. Among the plant world, celery has high levels of naturally occurring nitrates. And it’s an understandable ingredient, unlike sodium nitrite, which is a product derived from the chemical reaction of anhydrous sodium carbonate and nitric acid, which was derived from heating sulfuric acid and crude sodium nitrate…..
Like a lot of other things in life, the science on how harmfulness of nitrites and nitrates is contradictory. There are studies that say it’s bad; studies that say it’s of no concern. As usual, the Baumans take a simplified approach: since it is a naturally occurring element, we would prefer to use it in its most natural form, in an ingredient we can understand: celery.