Panera Bread Co is stepping up its bacon game. And they are doing it as a part of the restaurant industry’s new effort to purify its ingredients overall; and Panera wants to be the first national chain to serve what they are calling “clean” bacon.
Bacon, of course, is not necessarily known as the “cleanest” product; after all, it is largely just pork fat. But Panera does get its pork from pigs raised free from antibiotics or gestation crates, and, maybe more importantly, these animals are fed following a strict vegetarian diet. This means, basically, the artificial additives often attributed to bacon has now been removed and Panera claims that no other national chain—that serves bacon—meets these stringent standards.
“Some of the things we’ve done are simple — it’s just a matter of asking why we’ve been doing it that way,” explains Dan Kish, who is the leader of the company’s culinary team. “We lifted the hood on everything on the menu.”
In addition, Panera founder and Ceo Ron Shaich comments, “Clean bacon is an example of how you can amplify when you simplify. By removing artificial additives, we made a switch to better ingredients, better texture and, ultimately, better flavor. We’re not just offering clean bacon; it’s bacon that has been elevated in every way.”
And with this shift, Panera has now successfully completed roughly 95 percent of its clean food initiative. Of course, that means the company still has a few places where it can improve, particularly in its bakery section, if they want to reach its fully “clean” goal by the end of the year.
That’s when, Kish says, “we can stop calling it clean food and just call it food again.”
At the same time, he reminds that just Panera’s new bacon is “clean” — which, in this case means “free from additives” — it does not necessarily mean it is “healthy.”
He explain, “Clean doesn’t equal healthy. Bacon is still bacon. It’s from the belly of the hog. It’s fatty, it’s delicious, but you shouldn’t eat a lot of it every day.”
Finally, he comments that as they approach the fulfillment of this goal they simply just keep taking steps back to look at the bigger picture. For example, once they removed the artificial agents and preservatives from bacon, they stopped to think about what bacon was always meant to be. Basically, the concluded that consumers simply want “the perfect slice.” Thus, he comments, “My food philosophy is that if you’re going to truly enjoy an indulgence, like salty, smoky bacon, it should be the best you can get.”