I just stock up on the good stuff when I see it on sale. Freezes and defrosts well enough. I'm partial to the WF 365 brand myself.
I buy the "fancy" bacon at my farmer's market because it costs about the same here as the regular stuff, and it's the one meat I can afford that I know was ethically raised.
To the OP, I'm afraid I can't sympathize. I started buying the exact bacon that you refer to (Applegate Farms Uncured Sunday Bacon) because of concerns about nitrates. After I found out that the regular bacon nitrates might not be as terrible, since you're still getting nitrates from the "uncured" stuff, just in a different form, I still bought Applegate because I prefer the taste!
TJs bacon isn't all that pricey. Shit, it costs less than conventional "premium" bacon. We usually get our bacon at costco. It's organic and works out to about $4 a pound.
I go to local meat processors as I find them around here, because SOMEBODY needs to create the demand so local, small, moving-towards-truly-sustainable shops stay open or perhaps even increase in number. For that I will pay a bit more and stay the hell out of Walmart. I have four kids and a hubby, so I get the cost thing - we ain't independently wealthy either.
We get the bacon ends and pieces, which are much cheaper, because we use bacon mostly in cooking, and for a price that does fit into our budget, we can have bacon more often that way. And the perfectly cut strip thing means little to us.
We do not find Oscar Meyer or Walmart brands to be better tasting.
I have a mantra that I have spouted for years... "If I eat right, I feel right. If I feel right, I exercise right. If I exercise right, I think right. If I think right, I eat right..." Phil-SC
Melissa and Dallas over at Whole9 have a pretty good article about pork:
The Conscientious Omnivore: Pork | Whole9 | Let us change your life.
My tuppensworth here: It's really really hard to find "good" pork (as Melissa says, 97% of pork comes from one of those horrific CAFO operations) anywhere in the US. Even the "expensive" stuff in Whole Paycheck and other places. They may be labeled organic but all that really means most of the time is that they were fed organic soy / grains, but still in those confined cages. And yes, there isn't all that much difference in taste.
What you want to seek out is actual pastured pork. For instance, in San Francisco I go to 4505 Meats for pastured pork bacon. Now with honest to gods pastured pork you better believe you can taste the difference. It's bloody amazing. When the pigs can go out and forage for acorns and roots and whatnot, it really makes a difference in how they taste.
But I'd argue much more important than taste, for gods sake people don't buy products from factory farms. Pig farms in particular are extremely nasty places. For the local and global environment, for the critters themselves and for the toxin laden meat they produce.
And I'm also in the camp that thinks bacon should be a treat, not a staple food.
But I couldn't sum it up as well as, again, the Whole9 duo. I'd also recommend reading their bacon manifesto:
The Bacon Manifesto | Whole9 | Let us change your life.
Apathy is tyranny's greatest ally.
I consider bacon to be a treat precisely because it is so difficult/expensive to find non-CAFO bacon. And avoiding CAFO meat is incredibly important to me. Also, I've never been able to find typical grocery store bacon or sausage that doesn't have added sugar or even, yikes, MSG (was once at a Safeway and literally could not find a sausage that did not contain MSG--it was shocking).
The local farmer's markets have pastured bacon, and maybe once a month I'll get a bit of it. So bacon is definitely an occasional treat food, not something I eat every day or even every week.
I think everyone just needs to make the choices that align with their priorities, and decide what those priorities are for themselves.
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