Nary a week goes by that bacon isn’t in the news. Most news stories are positive, extolling the attributes of this most versatile and sought-after pork cut.

Out of curiosity, I conducted a simple Google search for “bacon.” The search results: 172 million! Maybe we should cure the whole darn pig!

Bacon has received its fair share of exposure on the Iowa State Fairgrounds already this year. When 8,000 tickets for the mid-February Annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival went on sale at 35 bucks a pop, they were snapped up in just 12 minutes and 12 seconds.

Pork Checkoffjoined the bacon festivities during World Pork Expo with the theme: “Everything is better with bacon.”

Expo-goers were treated to breakfast burritos and donut holes with bacon, bacon corn dogs, bacon wonder bars, bacon pancakes, bacon brats and bacon Chex Mix. As you read this, the last tantalizing whiffs of sizzling bacon are wafting across the fairgrounds.

Fast-Food Foodies

As defined in The World English Dictionary, a “foodie” is “a person having an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.”

My qualifications are limited to the enthusiastic consumption of good food. My training as an Army cook probably disqualifies me as an enthusiastic preparer of good food.

However, on the consumption side, I am not an enthusiastic “fast foodie.” But recent announcements by industry-leading McDonald’s and its archrival, Burger King, have caught my attention.

As reported by BurgerBusiness.com, McDonald’s, the king of fast food, has removed its premium burger, the Angus Third Pounder, and replaced it with its old staple, the Quarter Pounder — originally introduced back in 1972. The McDonald’s menu now has three new Quarter Pounder choices: Bacon & Cheese, Bacon Habanero Ranch and Deluxe.

But what really caught my attention was the introduction of a new “thick-cut, applewood-smoked bacon,” which will be featured ontwo of the new Quarter Pounders and all bacon-clad entrees on the menu.

Dueling Rib Sandwiches

As fast-food burger joints clamor to add new twists to the basic hamburger, Burger King challenged its nemesis at the Golden Arches with an in-your-face boneless rib pork sandwich — the BK Rib Sandwich — to tempt loyal McRib sandwich lovers. The new BK Rib sandwich joins the Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork and the Carolina BBQ Whopper (with bacon) on the franchise’s summer lineup.

Burger King’s vice president of global innovation, Eric Hirschhorn, in a USA Today report, stated: “It’s not just about beef anymore.” He explained that the new summer entrees will be tagged with the slogan: “Taste is King.” With the expanded menu featuring pork, that seems fitting.

You can bet the folks at the Golden Arches aren’t going to sit back and watch the BK Rib Sandwich chip away at their popular McRib sandwich market share. I predict the McRib will be back sooner rather than later!

As the fast-food giants engage in a game of one-upmanship, offering new pork sandwiches and adding more and better bacon to their burger options, the pork industry wins. “I’m lovin’ it.”

These burger wars come at a good time. January-April pork inventories were almost 6% larger than the same period last year, and first-quarter 2013 pork exports slipped 16% compared to last year. 

As beef supplies continue to tighten and prices climb higher, consumers and restaurateurs are actively seeking new, nutritious entrees with more appeal and better margins.

Thanks, Pearl

Finally, I’d like to offer a tribute to a lovely lady in central Texas named Pearl Cantrell, who recently celebrated her 105th birthday. As several news reports noted, Miss Cantrell attributes her long, healthy life to a daily diet that includes bacon. “I love bacon,” she declares. “I eat it every day.”

Her comments about bacon so impressed the folks at Oscar Mayer that they sent their famous Wienermobile for a spin around her hometown. With a seasoned sense of humor and a flair for understatement, Miss Cantrell commented: “I will never, ever forget this for the rest of my life.”

This great-grandmother, widowed at 38, raised seven kids with hard work and determination — picking cotton and baling hay. She quit mowing her own lawn just five years ago. At her birthday party, this great-grandmother proved she could still shake a leg by dancing the Texas two-step.

Cheers to you, Pearl. I raise a thick slice of hickory-cured bacon to wish you many happy returns and continued good health.