NEW YORK (MainStreet) — For the second year in a row, Hormel Foods will be taking its Black Label Bacon Bike on the road to bacon festivals around the country, which normally might not be noteworthy.
In this case, the motorcycle is not just some shiny corporate showpiece. The 2011 Track T-800 CDI runs on bacon biodiesel — fuel made from bacon grease. It gets 100 bacon-scented miles per gallon.
The customized motorcycle is also the focus of a beautifully shot, folksy documentary, Driven by Bacon, starring actor Eric Pierson. The short film chronicles a cross-country road trip made on the bike to introduce it to Americans, but it also showcases our love of bacon.
Is bacon biodiesel the wave of the future that will save us from drilling for oil?
Hormel says no. That wasn't the intention of the bike or film. Their goal was to inspire people to think differently.
"When we set out to create this bacon-powered motorcycle, it wasn't about developing a viable, sustainable fuel source. We are by no means saying that pork-based fuel is the wave of future," says Scott Schraufnagel of BBDO, the advertising agency that developed the campaign for Hormel. "This spotlights creativity and ingenuity, the opportunities and possibilities that can exist in this space. It's a bit of showpiece to build excitement around that."
Making biofuel from bacon in massive quantities would be expensive and inefficient. Biofuels made from larger-scale inputs such as ethanol made from corn sugar are far more cost effective, says Hormel's Nick Schweitzer, brand manager of breakfast meats.
"What this does show, though, is that sustainability should be in everybody's mindset," Schweitzer says. "But it's not like you're cooking up a pound of bacon and pouring it into the motorcycle. There's a big middle step."
Still, the company does seem to have achieved its goal of starting a nationwide conversation about alternative fuels. Since the bike's introduction people have come out of the woodwork to share stories with Hormel about alternatives they've developed — everything from making fuel from french fry oil to algae — making the future appear ripe with possibility.
"It's like breaking bread, it's a great conversation starter," Schraufnagel says.
While not necessarily making fuel with it, chefs and culinary directors across the country say bacon is more popular then ever — so much so that some are predicting a shortage in the next few years. Typically inexpensive, It's being used in ever more creative ways, included in everything from bacon ice cream and milkshakes to bacon jelly and bacon popcorn.
"Bacon is super hot. There's bacon in everything and it has been that way for four or five years now," says Tavistock Restaurant Collection Culinary Director Patrick Quakenbush. "Most cities around the country have a bacon fest. Bacon fests are huge. And bacon is being used to make everything — bacon ice cream, people are crumbling up bacon bits and putting them on top of donuts — the list goes on and on. It all really comes from the popularity of the celebrity chef. People are now becoming foodies, and bacon adds three or four different elements to a dish — salty, smoky and sweet."
With this in mind, here's a look at some of the best places to eat bacon across the country and the unique dishes being created with it.