Which came first, the bacon or the egg?
That’s an easy one: Eggs win by millions of years. As early as 7000 B.C., people in India and China had domesticated chickens and were eating their eggs — and long before that, folks had probably figured out that they could snatch the edible eggs of wild birds directly from their nests.
Bacon is no youngster, of course. It probably didn’t much resemble what’s on our breakfast plates and in our sandwiches today, but the Chinese started curing pork belly around 1500 B.C., and the Greeks and Romans later made their own versions of cured pork. (Bacon is just meat from the back, sides, or belly of a pig — traditionally — that is cured and/or smoked.)
And Englishman figured out how to mass-produce lean English-style back bacon in the 1770s, and in 1924 a German immigrant named Oscar Mayer introduced America to presliced, commercially packaged bacon that was basically what we know today.
It took another immigrant, Austrian-born Edward Bernays — a nephew of Sigmund Freud — to bring bacon to the breakfast table and unite it with eggs. An advertising and publicity genius, considered “the grandfather of public relations,” Bernays was approached in the latter ‘20s by the Beech-Nut Packing Company, which cured and sold bacon, and asked to come up with a campaign to encourage bacon sales.
At the time, most Americans ate modest breakfasts of fruit, porridge, some kind of bread — but Bernays got a doctor on his payroll to declare that a heartier, protein-rich morning meal was preferable. The ideal menu, according to Bernays, was of course bacon and eggs. The next thing anybody knew, there was the Egg McMuffin. This is the best breakfast sandwich in every state.
Today 70% of all bacon eaten in the U.S. is consumed for breakfast. It also turns up as a flavoring in all kinds of things. Here are 20 bacon-flavored foods the world doesn’t need.
Prices for bacon and eggs have both varied quite a bit over the years, the former more than the latter. That’s because bacon prices reflect production costs and supply and demand, while supermarkets typically sell eggs cheap as a loss leader. They might actually lose money on them, that is, but they get people into the store where they might buy something with a higher profit margin. Like, say, bacon.
To determine the cost of bacon and eggs the year you were born, 24/7 Tempo adjusted the average price of a pound of sliced bacon and a dozen grade A eggs in U.S. cities for every year from 1939 to 2019. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bacon prices were adjusted using the annual consumer price index for bacon and related products; egg prices were adjusted using the consumer price index for eggs. Historical prices of bacon and eggs were adjusted for overall inflation using the annual consumer price index for all items.