The Truth About Costco's Bacon

Costco is a stalwart fan favorite for a discerning reason. Not only does it offer incredible prices and deals, but many of its products are — perhaps surprisingly to some — of excellent quality, from its Kirkland Signature olive oil, which received a stamp of approval from celebrity chef Samin Nosrat of "Salt Fat Acid Heat" fame, to its $5 rotisserie chicken. (It's such a good deal that the company technically loses money on it.) 

But while these and other deals (Costco pizza, anyone?) are major crowd-pleasers, some products have Costco fans a bit more divided. To wit? The company's bacon. Some consumers swear by Costco's bacon, which is sold under its Kirkland label. Others are less convinced and have more than one point of contention with this bulk-sized pork belly fave. 

Want to know the truth about Costco's bacon? We've got the inside scoop, unveiling everything you need to know before you toss this popular pork product in your shopping cart.

Costco's bacon tastes better than most (if not all) competitor products

The most important thing about bacon is, of course, how it tastes. It can be the most humanely produced bacon out there, or the cheapest offering for miles around, but if it isn't tasty, it just ain't worth it. And the truth about Costco's bacon is that it is that good.

According to Consumer Reports, Costco's Kirkland Signature bacon is better than most, if not all, competitor products, including well-known brands like Oscar Mayer and Trader Joe's. The Consumer Reports data found that, as compared with all of these other brands, Costco's bacon was the only one to be dubbed "excellent."

"It crisped up nicely and consistently and had balanced fat and meat flavors complemented by wood smoke and a hint of sweetness," reads the report. Not only is it good for its price; Costco's bacon is just plain good!

Costco's bacon is about 20% cheaper than comparable brands

Costco's bacon isn't just better than other bacons — it's also cheaper. That shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise, seeing as a good deal is kind of this store's claim to fame. But did you know that Costco's bacon is a whopping 20% cheaper than comparable brands, according to the Wall Street Journal? To put that into perspective, this essentially means that if you choose Costco over another brand, you're getting 12 ounces of the 64 in each pack of four pounds for free.

This just goes to show that price isn't necessarily an indicator of quality. As a point of comparison, the priciest product tested by Consumer Reports, Oscar Mayer Fully Cooked bacon, rated much lower than many other bacon brands.

When it comes to bacon, Costco really is the best bang for your buck — no sacrifice on the quality required.

It's one of the store's best deals (but you have to buy a lot of it to reap the rewards)

Given Costco bacon's low price and high quality, it's perhaps no surprise that it's one of the store's best deals. "Today" rated it one of its top Costco options, bemoaning nevertheless the sheer quantity of bacon one must buy to reap the rewards: At Costco, consumers are required to buy four pounds at a time in order to reap the benefits of this deal.

Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just because you've bought four pounds of bacon doesn't mean you need to gorge yourself on pork for the next few weeks! Costco sells its bacon, not as a four-pound behemoth of a pack, but in four far more reasonably sized one-pound packages that are merely sold together. This makes it easy to open just one at a time and freeze the rest: bacon defrosts beautifully in the fridge.

Costco's bacon is relatively humanely produced

It's delicious, it's cheap ... there's gotta be a catch, right? Surely, Costco's bacon can't also be humanely produced?

Honestly, Costco has been pretty good on that front, too — and it's not that surprising when you know a bit about Costco's humane and sustainability commitments. Costco has a history of taking a stand on animal welfare and environmental issues, vowing back in 2015 not to sell GMO salmon or caged eggs, both of which were decisions that spurred similar commitments by smaller retailers and, according to Organic Authority, essentially changed the market demand in one fell swoop due to the sheer volume of merchandise moved by Costco.

When it comes to its bacon, Costco applies the same animal welfare standards it applies to all of its meat and dairy, supporting the Five Freedoms of animal wellbeing (freedom from fear, freedom from discomfort, freedom from thirst and hunger, freedom to exhibit natural behavior, and freedom from fear and suffering), relying on trained auditors to make sure that these and other criteria are respected, such as controlled use of antibiotics.

Costco relies on Hormel for its hickory-smoked pre-cooked bacon

Costco sells several types of bacon, most of which are marketed under its Kirkland brand. But there is one exception: the store's hickory-smoked, pre-cooked bacon, which is made by — and branded as — Hormel.

According to Costco corporate buyer Sarah George, the decision to work with Hormel for this product came after quite a long time of seeking out an appropriate bacon supplier that was of the quality Costco required. George tells Supermarket News that when she couldn't find a bacon that met the chain's needs, she reached out to Hormel, asking them to manufacture a product just for Costco. This pre-cooked bacon is different from Hormel's preexisting product, in that it's sliced a bit thicker.

"It was designed to be big enough so that it looked like a real piece of bacon on the plate," George said. And the panel, according to Supermarket News, approved.

Sometimes Costco hides broken, thin, or fatty pieces of bacon in the packages

Of course ... despite being delicious and inexpensive, Costco's bacon isn't totally perfect. One gripe quite a few consumers have is the lack of uniformity, specifically the company's penchant for hiding broken, thin, or fatty bacon pieces in its packages. It can be hard to see these pieces when you're picking your pack at the store, but as soon as you get it home, it becomes clear: not only is it tough to separate the slices, but once you cook them, not everyone at the breakfast table is going to be getting the same size or quality of slice.

According to several reviewers, this only recently became an issue.

"We've been a fan of Kirkland bacon for years on but for the last few purchases, we have had to contend with slices the have been cut so thin that they fall apart," writes Sally of Orlando, Florida on Consumer Affairs. "Today, EVERY slice split in multiple pieces when we tried to pull off slices."

Costco's thick-sliced bacon is even better than the thin-sliced

To combat the issue of small, fatty, broken pieces that consumers have been finding in Costco bacon packages of late, Insider found a solution to ensure that you're always getting the best slices of bacon when you buy it from Costco: opt for the thick-cut option. 

Unhappy reviewer Sally of Orlando, Florida on Consumer Affairs wondered if the reason why Costco's thin-cut bacon has gotten so much, well, thinner of late is to encourage consumers to buy this product instead. We don't know for sure. What we do know is that this style of bacon is meatier and cooks up more evenly, according to Insider. And considering that the product costs just 30 cents more per pound than the regular bacon, it's worth it, at least according to the Insider reviewer, who writes that from now on, she'll "be buying the thick-sliced variety every time."

It's easier to cook Costco's bacon more evenly in the oven than on the stovetop

Despite the time-honored tradition of frying bacon up in a cast iron skillet for your breakfast or brunch, in Insider's review of both Costco's regular and thick-cut bacon, the reviewer found that cooking the bacon on the stovetop rendered an unevenly cooked, shrunken, and even burned final product. In the oven, on the contrary, the bacon cooked up more evenly with "slightly less shrinkage," a benefit the reviewer said made the slices "appear meatier."

And cooking bacon in the oven has another advantage: it's far neater than a sizzling, spitting skillet of grease. In fact, the New York Times recommends always baking your bacon. Doing so will give you evenly cooked slices and you won't have as big a mess to clean up or have to deal with potential grease burns from an angry skillet. This method, the outlet adds, is also ideal if you're going to be cooking lots of bacon for a large group. 

Costco's bacon crumbles are made with real bacon

Many bacon bit or bacon crumble products on the market are creative with their labeling, calling them "bac'n' or "bacon-flavored" or even just throwing some scare-quotes around the word "bacon." And that's because a lot of bacon crumbles aren't actually made with any bacon at all! Take the McCormick version of the product, which MyRecipes notes is made, not with bacon, but with textured soy flour, canola oil, salt, and seasoning. Dyed with caramel color and red 40 dye, it kind of looks like bacon, but it's far from the real deal.

Unlike other products on the market, however, Costco's bacon crumbles are indeed made with 100% naturally smoked real bacon — and the difference in flavor is eons beyond pork-free brands of bacon-like bits.

According to She Knows' take on the product, it's this real bacon aspect that is what makes the Costco crumbles "legendary," and frankly, we can't agree more.

Demand for Costco's bacon is rising as pork prices climb

What was once a well-kept secret is suddenly surging in demand, not just because people have finally gotten the memo on how good Costco's bacon really is, but because pork prices across the country are climbing. Costco's bacon, at its almost criminally reasonable price, is therefore becoming more and more sought-after by consumers who want good-quality bacon at a reasonable price.

During an investor's call in March 2021, Costco's Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti noted that bacon was up 45% in pounds. "There is a lot of demand," he said, "so there is a little bit of a challenge.

Factors pushing pork prices higher, FOX Business reports, include herd losses linked to diseases like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome as well as African swine fever. For as long as these ailments plague the pig population, pork prices will probably continue to grow.

Costco might not be able to maintain this excellent deal for much longer

With pork prices rising and demand for its stellar bacon climbing ever higher, Costco may soon have a hard time maintaining the low prices it has long been famous for. That said, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told FOX Business in March 2021 that the chain of big box stores will indeed do its best to maintain its phenomenal bacon deal, or, if it does have to hike prices somewhat, "at least delay as long as possible." 

The goal nevertheless remains to maintain bacon prices where they are, so consumers can continue to reap the benefits of bulk-buying such high-quality bacon at such a low price point.

As AllRecipes pointed out, the demand for bacon isn't going anywhere. Consumers may have to pay a little more for it — if even for only a little while — but the price and availability of bacon will hopefully balance out sooner rather than later.