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Benevolent Bacon

Inside brioche bread and accompanied with tomato slices and baby arugula, Sweet Earth Foods Benevolent plant-based Benevolent Bacon was a weak substitute for real bacon.

One of the oldest processed meats in the world, bacon reportedly contains six different types of umami, a category of taste that makes certain foods especially addictive.

So, how much umami can be found in fake bacon? That was something Weekender taste testers were anxious to discover.

You see, we've long been obsessed with America's favorite breakfast meat and we are not alone.

After all, approximately 53 percent of all households keep bacon on hand at all time and the market for packaged, sliced bacon represents a more-than-$2 billion business.

These are pretty impressive stats for what many call "meat candy."

As tasty as bacon can be, nobody has ever made the argument it was healthy for you. Nearly 70 percent of the calories for bacon come from fat, about half of which is saturated. This is not to mention that each ounce of bacon contributed around 30 milligrams of cholesterol.

In other words, you can make a real pig of yourself by eating too much bacon.

That's why we were intrigued by something we saw in the frozen food section of a Sioux City store.

Can something calling itself Benevolent Bacon allow carnivores like us to be porcine-free?

Yeah, we had our own suspicion.

Describing itself as being "plant-based protein, Benevolent Bacon is manufactured by the Moss Landing, Calif.-based Sweet Earth Foods, which also makes vegan-friendly "meat" products with weird names like Harmless Ham and Tuscan Veggie Sausages.

To be honest, we don't know if such funky names made us feel good or bad about the product. Certainly, the list of ingredients left us scratching our heads.

SWEET EARTH FOODS' BENEVOLENT BACON

WHAT'S IN IT: Along with such common ingredients like natural hickory smoke, smoked paprika, the back of Benevolent Bacon box featured things we'd never heard of before. Non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola Oil and/or Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Adzuki beans? Buckwheat groats? What's a groat? Doesn't sound too appetizing.  

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE: Visually, it sorta looked ... interesting. Red velvet in color, the Benevolent Bacon had darkened edges as if it had comes from the grill. Obvious, it hadn't. Still, it was a nice touch.

HOW HEALTHY WAS IT: Clocking in at less than 100 calories, Benevolent Bacon has 61 percent less sodium, 69 percent less fat and 45 percent fewer calories than pork bacon, according to the box. 

HOW DID WE USE IT: We made a classic BLT. Well, actually, it was a classic BAT. We added the fake bacon to sliced tomatoes and a bed of baby arugula that was served on two slices of brioche bread.

OBSERVATIONS WHILE COOKING: Following the instructions, we fried the plant-based bacon in a skillet. They recommended the bacon to cook about two minutes per side. Longer, if you wanted extra crispness. We cooked both sides for a full five minutes, hoping it would crisp up. Alas. it never happened.

OK, HOW DID IT TASTE: Well, it smelled a bit like bacon (must've been the hickory smoke) but had neither the taste or the feel of bacon. Falling apart as you touched it, this "bacon" had the appearance of a limp, overcooked piece of unsauced lasagna. Come to think about, it also tasted like a limp noodle too. Certainly, not anything we'd associate with real bacon.  

WOULD WE EVER TRY IT AGAIN: Um, nope. We'll just stick to the real thing.

THE BIG SQUEAL: On a scale of one to five, Benevolent Bacon fell on the low end. We'd give it a 1.5.

   

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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