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SIOUX CITY | Although she makes more conventional kinds of cupcakes, Daily Grind Bakery & Market's Tiffany Parsons admits it's her maple bacon cupcake that has become a real crowd pleaser.

"People were skeptical but the sweet-salty component really works well," she says inside her store.

Similarly, an otherwise traditional chicken sandwich at Dog Eat Dog is given a savory spin with a smear of ranch dressing, melted cheddar cheese and thick slices of bacon.

"I thick it's the bacon that ties everything together," says Maria Perez while holding up Dog Eat Dog's bacon cheddar chicken sandwich at the shop's Sergeant Bluff location. "I call bacon 'meat candy' because it goes with everything and a person can never stop at one piece."

One of the oldest processed meats around, more than 1.7 billion pounds of bacon will be consumed in food service every year in the United States, according to the National Pork Board.

As a way to celebrate this ubiquitous breakfast staple, an unofficial observance has been established. Typically held the weekend before Labor Day, International Bacon Day will be observed in the United States on Saturday.

This renewed popularity hasn't gone unnoticed by Iowa Pork Producers' communications director Ron Birkenholz, who says bacon has been embraced by both gourmets and regular folk.

"Bacon has always been a food with wide appeal," he explains, "but it has only been in recent years that its developed a cult following."

Birkenholz cites the annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, held every January in Des Moines, for bringing bacon into the forefront.

"Bacon Fest brings people from all over the country and all over the world together to sample gourmet bacon," he notes. "That's pretty impressive for a meat that used to be only eaten for breakfast."

While Dog Eat Dog owner Dave Schrock sells plenty of breakfast dogs (bacon, scramble eggs, hash browns and a one-fourth pound beef sausage served on a bun) for his early morning crowd, he believes bacon can be enjoyed at all hours of the day.

In fact, more than seven of Dog Eat Dog's signature burgers and dogs contain large amounts of bacon.

"I credit the fast food industry for (bacon's) popularity," Schrock says. "When I was a kid, a bacon cheeseburger was a novelty. Now, every place has to have one."

That isn't to say that Schrock's complaining. Indeed, he's a fan of sizzling strips of meat.

"You don't need fancy bacon to make a sandwich. Regular bacon straight from the package adds the right amount of added flavor," he says, noting that his restaurant goes through nearly 10 pounds of bacon on daily basis.

But would Schrock ever eat a cupcake covered in bacon?

"Well, that's a little out there for me," he admits.

This doesn't disappoint The Daily Grind's Parsons, who turned a fair share of skeptics around to her applewood bacon-infused baked goods.

The Daily Grind's maple bacon cupcake is made with pieces of maple and bacon inside the cake. It is topped with a maple frosting and covered with slivers of candied bacon.

"It took a few tries to perfect the recipe," she says, "but I know how the right combination of sweet and salty."

Having that recipe down pat, Parsons says she'd like to concoct additional bacon-inspired menu items.

"I'd love to do chocolate-cover bacon or a bacon peanut brittle," she says. "I guess you can never have enough bacon."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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