No pain for a cost

It is no surprise that I do not eat pork. I have not eaten pork for almost two years now. I gave it up like a bad habit when we figured out that it was part of what was causing my stomach pain. I have not looked back and I do not regret it. Not an ounce of pork has crossed my lips since then. It does sometimes make it difficult or even rather interesting, but if it means less stomach pain then I am all for that.

I have found over the last couple of years that more pork free breakfast meat options have become more readily available. This is good news for me because that was a big deal for me. I love bacon. Sausage not so much, but bacon was a hard one to give up. I craved bacon when I was pregnant with my oldest son, Andrew. I craved it so badly, I would devour an entire package of bacon in one sitting. I was practically eating bacon by the pound I craved it so badly. I knew it was not good for me in some ways, but I did not care. Under normal circumstances, I was not a ravenous bacon consumer. I could take it or leave it, but if I was having a breakfast where it was appropriate to also consume a breakfast meat, bacon would be my first choice. Thus, giving up bacon was a hard thing for me. In the beginning I could not even touch the bacon. I could not look at it. I could not touch it. I could not smell it. I again found myself craving it. After a few months, however, I found that I did not crave it. I found that the lack of pain won out and the cravings became less and less. I still find myself with a pang of craving if I catch a sniff of good smelling bacon cooking, but it is just a hint and it usually passes.

Finding alternative options for bacon and even sausage for the breakfast table has been like a godsend for me because it has allowed me to get that flavor without the pain. It allows me to participate in the experience without the pain. For that I am grateful. If you are someone who has given up something because you had to, not because you wanted to, you understand what I am talking about.

The biggest problem with some of the alternatives, however, is that they are not quite “bacon.” They are sub-par. You have to lower your standards and expectations. I do not force these alternative experiences on my family members too often because they do not have to eat these things like I do. They do not have to go without if they do not want to. I do like it when they try them. I do not mind it when they ask to try them, in fact it makes me happy to know that they want to know what I am eating as an alternative.

I was so happy when I found chicken bacon in the grocery store that I bought four packages. I did not care if it was good, I wanted to make sure it stayed in stock so I bought four packages. In all honesty though, I had tried it at one of the tasting tables so I knew it tasted very similar to bacon, it had just had not been in stock at the store since I had tasted it. That day, there it was in the case and I did not care how much it cost, I bought four packages. I have bought two packages every single time I have seen it in stock since. Unfortunately, that is not very often.

I can tell you that Pilgrim’s brand chicken bacon is far superior to Tyson brand chicken bacon both in flavor and texture. I was actually surprised by that. The Tyson brand held together better when cooking, but that was the only highlight of the Tyson experience. Both are highly processed, so that is a negative in both courts. Pilgrim’s is little bits of chopped chicken pressed back together. Tyson looks like a slab of bologna rolled out and sliced thing for the bacon strips. The texture of the Pilgrim’s is better because it actually crisps up nicely, whereas the Tyson becomes more rubbery in my experience. The flavor in the Pilgrim’s was a bit more bacon like whereas it just seemed to blend into the rubbery experience I was having with the Tyson. Both are far superior to any experience I have had with turkey bacon.

All of that being said, I have packages of both in my freezer. I have been able to find the chicken bacon at Kroger (most frequently, Pilgrim’s), Randall’s (least frequently, Tyson), and HEB (Tyson). The good news is that Kroger did put it on sale frequently and there were often coupons on the product. The price was actually not too bad, comparatively speaking. Regular price at Kroger was roughly $4.99 and it was often on sale for two for $5. The coupons were often for 55¢ off. That makes it cheaper than most pork bacon in most cases.

I have tried a variety of chicken sausages as well. I am not a huge fan of some of those. I would eat them if they were the only alternative, but they often leave something to be desired. I am not entirely sure why because the chicken sausage patties that they serve at Denny’s restaurants are actually quite tasty and are quite appetizing as a substitute for pork breakfast sausage.

This morning I ran to the grocery store (Kroger) to grab a loaf of bread that was not frozen for Ben to make breakfast with. He wanted to make “pop-eyes” and he needed a loaf of bread that had not just come out of the freezer. He had a package of bacon in the fridge that I had bought the day before, but I had not planned ahead and pulled a package of chicken bacon out of the freezer to defrost. I decided that I would just grab another package or a package of sausage while I was at the store, it would just be faster and easier than trying to quick defrost a package of chicken bacon. It cooks differently so defrosting it is funny.

Apple Gate Farms makes chicken breakfast sausages and they are fine taste wise. The one I bought today was actually quite delicious. My problem is that it is stinking expensive. If you price compare to Banquet Brown and Serve sausage link at about $1-2 the box of Apple Gate Farms I paid $7.99 for this morning is very pricy. Granted, the Apple Gate Farms are supposedly organic and nitrate free and all that really bad stuff for you free. I am not a zealot about all that stuff, so frankly I did not care. I just wanted chicken sausage. I just wanted lower fat. I just wanted something that was not going to make my stomach hurt. That being said, the Apple Gate Farms Chicken and Maple Sausage links were good. They were far better than their Chicken and Apple Sausage links. They were definitely better than the turn your nose up Trader Joe’s fresh breakfast chicken sausage links. I did not like those much at all. After they had been reheated they were better, but not very good the first go around.

Now, a lot of you might be saying that there are beef alternatives as well and you are right. Until the other day, however, I had never seen beef bacon. I have not seen it since. The day I did see it in the store, I used the same philosophy I used when I saw the chicken bacon. I did not care and I bought it. It was about $5 a package. In fact, I believe it was closer to $6 a package. Like I said, I did not care how much it was, we were going to try it. We had pancakes for dinner that night because we were going to try it.

I have to say that I personally am not a fan of beef bacon. I am not. It was just okay with me. It was not bad, it just was not great either. It was more favorable for my husband than the chicken bacon was, but it was clear that he still would prefer pork bacon. The kids liked the beef bacon too, but I am not sure they lean one way or the other over the chicken or beef. They certainly also would prefer the pork bacon as well. If the only option was beef bacon, I would eat it. It was fine. It just was not as flavorful. It was, it was just different and it was not close to pork bacon in my opinion. It was different. It had a different texture as well.

Now I am perfectly fine with beef sausage. That does not bother me, but the stores do not always have beef sausage in stock. The beef sausage (and bacon) is also higher in fat so I have to watch the fat content and be careful about that. I do have a little harder time digesting the beef so I have to be careful with it, but I can tolerate it so long as I do not eat it all the time. It is fine.

I am just grateful that the chicken breakfast meat options are available even if they do come at a cost. I am not super picky, but I am willing to make some sacrifices in my standards to have some things in the morning. Pancakes just are not the same if they do not have bacon or sausage beside them. The best part is that with the chicken bacon is that I can eat more of it and still be within acceptable levels than I ever could with the pork bacon! Some bonuses to having to sacrifice something that I loved to the pain in my stomach.

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