Josh Hafner: Why Iowa’s bacon fetish must end

Josh Hafner: Why Iowa’s bacon fetish must end

The Register reported that the owner of Jethro’s BBQ restaurants plans to open a bacon-themed eatery this fall in West Des Moines. “Jethro’s BBQ n’ Bacon Bacon” (yes, “Bacon” is in the title twice) will feature bacon-wrapped ribs, bacon steaks and chocolate-dipped bacon for dessert.

Then the Iowa State Fair announced this year’s lineup of new fair foods that, to no one’s surprise, included items like “chicken fried bacon,” “chocolate-covered bacon nougat on a stick” and a smoked brisket mac and cheese topped with — why not? — bacon.

RELATED: 76 photos: 2014 Bacon Festival

Bacon is incredibly tasty and, in the nation’s number-one pork producing state, a part of our culture. But Iowa’s bacon craze may have jumped the shark. Or pig, as it were.

A recent meme swirling around the web imagines each of America’s 50 states personified as kids sitting together in a classroom. Texas is a football captain. Connecticut is a rich kid who plays lacrosse.

Iowa is a kid with misunderstood appeal — which is true — but could equally be described as “the sort of greasy kid whose breath and clothes always smell like bacon, who draws bacon on the outside of his binders and who keeps inviting you to see the sculptures he makes out of bacon in his parents’ basement.”

In short: Everyone likes bacon, sure, but this Iowa kid is starting to weird everyone out.

I love bacon. My grandfather farmed pigs. I ate a burger on Monday with three strips of bacon and eggs — all cooked in bacon grease. But to greatly enjoy the taste of a food and to elevate it as a defining part of your identity are two different things.

A bacon craze became visible across all America years back, perhaps around when the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, which cooks 15,000 pounds of bacon each year and crowns bacon queens wearing dresses made out of bacon, debuted in 2008.

But when that bacon craze crept into Iowa from the coasts, as trends often do, the economical, everyman’s meat met with Iowa’s pork culture and unpretentious demeanor to produce an unrivaled obsession.

But in pockets of Des Moines’ Twittersphere, including my own, this weeks’ bacon news was met with some exhaustion.

Is the salty novelty wearing off? How many more foods can we wrap in bacon and still pretend it’s original? Should we fetishize bacon in a state where nearly one in three Iowans are obese?

“I think bacon hysteria has already peaked,” tweeted Scott Bents of Des Moines. “It’s delicious and always will be. It’s too much of a good thing though.”’

About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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