Bringing Home the Bacon

Bacon has been a mainstay in the foodservice industry and on dining tables for generations. Most bacon sold in the United States consists of long, narrow slices cut across natural striations of lean meat and fat.

The first step in making bacon — which is technically described as cured pork belly — is to cure whole pork bellies in a curing brine made from water, salt, spices, sugar and sodium nitrite. Once the solution has been injected into the meat, pork bellies are hung in a refrigerated curing room for up to 36 hours to allow for complete brine distribution. After curing, bacon slabs are moved to the smokehouse where they will remain for a minimum of four hours. To finish the product, cured and smoked bacon slabs are slowly heat-processed to reduce water content, and then quickly chilled to less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacterial growth and to extend shelf life.

Sysco brand bacon is always made from fresh — not frozen — pork bellies and is smoked using real hardwood smoke. This gives Sysco bacon its signature deep, smoky flavor.

To ensure reliable quality, Sysco employs the largest and most active Quality Assurance (QA) department in the industry. Quality specifications that address every aspect of the bacon manufacturing process are tightly controlled and managed by a Sysco Program Quality Manager (PQM).

Sysco’s QA professionals evaluate bacon for defects such as:

  • Incorrect slice count: For reliable portion control and to guarantee slice count, Sysco counts every slice in a box, not just in a one-pound sample. 
  • Inconsistencies: Curled or torn strips are unattractive as finished products and can result in waste.
  • Hooks: Thin, curling edges on the outside of bacon are a result of a pork belly that is too wide.
  • Wrinkles: Dips in the bacon that occur in the middle of the belly (also called over-press or convolutions). 
  • Cosmetic defects: Excessive tears, lacing, inconsistent thickness or scrap pieces.
  • Critical defects: Bone, cartilage, hair and glands
  • Packaging issues: Packages must be correctly labeled, have a current code date, be sealed correctly, and have no residual oxygen (for gas‐flushed packages).
  • Use of frozen bellies: Sysco never uses frozen bellies to make bacon because they continue to age, often resulting in an off or rancid flavor profile.

The PQM also handles all customer queries or complaints, taking action on each individual case to address questions and to resolve any product issues.

Compliance to these specifications is accomplished through documented process controls, process and facility audits, and routine product evaluations. These activities are implemented and monitored by the PQM and through the use of Sysco QA Field Specialists, who support the corporate QA team by inspecting Sysco Brand products at approved supplier manufacturing facilities. QA Field Specialists inspect Sysco bacon for quality attributes, focusing on customer yield and profitability — including slice count per case, slice thickness uniformity, slice width, presence of internal lean, cosmetic defects such as dips and hooks, and critical defects. Inspection results are reported directly to the PQM. Additionally, Field Specialists have the authority to stop production and place defective products on hold to prevent them from entering the Sysco distribution chain if Sysco specs are not met.

At Sysco, we understand that bacon is not just for breakfast anymore. It’s perfect for everyday uses — as a side item, topping, and in some cases, as a main course. That’s why we spend more time and resources than any other distributor to ensure consistent quality and flavor in every slice.

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