Nitrate-free bacon is hard to find in the UK. Only a minority of bacon-selling supermarkets, shops and butchers sell bacon without sodium or potassium nitrates.
To ensure food safety, many nitrate-free bacon items have a short shelf life of one week or less.
Sometimes, bacon will be frozen shortly after being made and delivered to customers frozen. This is the best way to keep nitrate-free bacon and meats safe; freezing does not affect the meats’ taste or texture. It may also be less pink in colour when cooked.
Nitrates vs. Nitrites
While they sound similar, there are differences between nitrates and nitrites.
Nitrates are added to some foods to help preserve them. In the UK, the two most commonly used nitrates in foods are sodium nitrate (also known as preservative E251) and potassium nitrate (E252).
The nitrates neutralise the nasty bacteria that, after some time, begins to grow on bacon, ham, cured meats and cheese. This is a great way to extend the food’s shelf life.
Unfortunately, nitrates have been linked with higher incidences of cancer in many studies worldwide and there are calls to ban nitrates from foods entirely.
Nitrites act as a preservative, but they also react with the proteins in meat to turn them a bright red or pink colour. This makes bacon more visually appealing to consumers.
Nitrites also increase the saltiness of bacon and other cured meats. The most common nitrite in supermarket bacon is sodium nitrite (E250).
According to the European Food Safety Authority, the acceptable daily intake of nitrates for adults is 3.7mg per kilogram of bodyweight. The acceptable daily intake of nitrites is much lower; 0.7mg per kilogram of bodyweight.
Which are more harmful – Nitrites or nitrates?
There’s no definite answer as to which is more harmful to human health. Both nitrites and nitrates have been linked with various types of cancer in scientific studies, but there is no conclusive answer.
For comparison, the risk of dying from smoking is 2000% higher than the risk of dying from high processed meat consumption. Choosing to buy nitrate-free bacon can reduce the volume of potentially-harmful nitrates in a person’s diet.
Where to Buy Nitrate- and Nitrite-Free Bacon in the UK
Ocado cares about the sustainability of their business and the food they sell; they’re committed to becoming the UK’s most sustainable grocer. Just 0.04% of all Ocado’s items end up as food waste!
To cut down on food waste, they send 95% of unsold and excess fresh food to food banks, animal parks and other charities.
Ocado also sponsors 11 refrigerated food vans across the UK, helping their partner charities to deliver food to those in need. The other 5% of waste is recycled into useful energy in British sustainable energy facilities.
Ocado sells a selection of nitrite-free bacon. They sell seven products from two brands: M&S and Better Naked. All Ocado bacon is sourced from suppliers that adhere to the Red Tractor’s standards.
The M&S bacon products sold by Ocado are verified as being nitrite free, but not nitrate free – it is unclear whether they contain nitrates.
The 4 smoked and unsmoked Better Naked bacon products are made with British or Irish Pork. These don’t contain nitrates but do contain small amounts of natural flavouring and ascorbic acid, which acts as an antioxidant and helps to extend the bacon’s shelf life.
Ocado sells these nitrite-free bacon products online:
- M&S British 6 Unsmoked Bacon Rashers Made Without Nitrites (200g)
- M&S British 12 Unsmoked Streaky Bacon Rashers Made Without Nitrites (200g)
- M&S British Smoked Bacon Rashers (200g)
- Better Naked Unsmoked Back Bacon Rasher (200g)
- Better Naked Smoked Back Bacon Rashers (200g)
- Better Naked Unsmoked Streaky Bacon Rashers (200g)
- Better Naked Smoked Streaky Bacon Rashers (200g)
New Ocado customers can grab a £20 discount and free delivery when they spend £60 or more. Delivery charges depend on the date of delivery; typical charges range between £0 and £6.99. There is a minimum spend of £40 on all Ocado orders.
Various payment methods are accepted by Ocado, allowing customers to pay using; PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Visa Delta, Visa Debit, Switch and American Express.
2. The Dorset Meat Company
The Dorset Meat Company sources their fresh produce from 20 small, independent, family-run farms dotted around Dorset and Wiltshire.
The Dorset Meat Company champions regenerative farming. This process focuses on sustaining biodiversity, managing water usage and improving soil health, without the use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. Customers can buy one-off orders and set up a regular delivery.
The Dorset Meat Company stocks two types of bacon, both produced from pigs that are fed a sustainable, GMO-free diet on small British farms. The company supports the Sustainable Food Trust and the Campaign for Local Abattoirs.
Their bacon is sourced locally from The Real Cure at Hartgrove Farm in Shaftesbury, Devon. This independent farm raises traditional pig breeds to produce high-quality nitrate-free British bacon. Salt and muscovado sugar are used to cure and preserve the bacon. Their smoked variety is oak smoked.
The Dorset Meat Company sells two nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon products:
- Dorset Dry Cured Streaky Nitrate & Nitrite Free Bacon (200g)
- Dorset Dry Cured Back Nitrite & Nitrate Free Bacon (200g)
This nitrite- and nitrate-free bacon has won various awards including Great Taste Awards and Taste of the West awards. First-time customers can get 10% off their first order.
3. Coombe Farm Organic
Coombe Farm Organic is a medium-sized, independent online butcher and supermarket specialising in British meats, including bacon.
Their nitrate-free smoked streaky bacon won a GOLD Taste of the West award in 2021. They exclusively sell bacon from high-welfare pigs that are fed a diet of ground organic grain.
The animals also graze on local land, close to the Coombe Farm Organic shop.
In place of nitrites and nitrates, Coombe Farm Organic uses organic demerara sugar and natural sea salt. This gives their bacon an intensely meaty flavour without the use of any chemicals or artificial ingredients.
To extend the shelf life of their nitrate-free smoked and unsmoked bacon, orders are sent frozen with a use by date of 3 to 5 days after defrosting.
The bacon is butchered by a small, experienced team of butchers. Delivery costs £3.95 at the time of writing, with a minimum basket total of £40. Next-day delivery is typically available on all Coombe Farm Organic online orders.
The Coombe Farm Organic website currently lists nine nitrate-free bacon products for sale:
- Organic Nitrate-Free Unsmoked Back Bacon (200g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Smoked Back Bacon (200g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Unsmoked Streaky Bacon (200g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Smoked Streaky Bacon (200g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Collar Bacon (250g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Smoked Collar Bacon (250g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Lamb Bacon (250g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Smoked Bacon Lardons (250g)
- Organic Nitrate-Free Bacon Lardons (250g)
4. Gazegill Organics
The family-run Gazegill farm is located on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire. It has been operated by the Robinson family for over 500 years.
Gazegill uses organic farming methods to care for their land, crops and animals. They don’t use any genetically modified organisms, pesticides or herbicides and their meat is 100% free from residual antibiotics.
Gazegill uses traditional pig breeds to produce their bacon including Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs. These animals are healthier than factory-farmed pigs, as they haven’t been genetically modified to produce meat quicker or fed unnecessary antibiotics.
Sea salt and organic molasses are used to preserve and cure Gazegill Organics’ range of bacon rashers, chops and lardons. The bacon is preserved for two weeks then dry-cured for 10 days before being packaged.
Their pigs graze on the family meadow, which is home to more than 60 species of grasses, herbs and plants. The end result is fantastically-flavoured, award-winning bacon that doesn’t contain nitrites, nitrates, antibiotics, pesticides or GMOs.
At the time of writing, Gazegill Organics sell five nitrate-free bacon products:
- Organic Bacon Chops (2 x 165g)
- Organic Nitrate Free Bacon (6 rashers)
- Organic Nitrate Free Bacon Lardons (250g)
- Organic Nitrate Free Middle Bacon (6 rashers)
- Organic Smoked Nitrate Free Bacon (6 rashers)
To cut down on waste, Gazegill uses recycled and recyclable cardboard boxes to package orders. To keep meat products cool during transit, eco-friendly wool liners are used instead of more traditional plastic pouches.
According to their website, Gazegill is moving towards using 100% biodegradable vacuum packs to keep their bacon and other products as fresh as possible.
5. Green Pasture Farms
Green Pasture Farms is located in the small rural village of Rimmington, Lancashire. The family-owned farm is certified as organic by OF&G organic. They raise cattle, sheep, lamb and pigs and are proud producers of 100% nitrate-free bacon products.
All Green Pasture Farms bacon is certified organic, pasture (grass) raised and free from gluten and genetically modified organics.
No nitrites or nitrates are used; the only ingredients are British bacon from traditional breeds, organic sea salt, organic raw cane sugar and organic blackstrap molasses.
The bacon is hand-cured for three weeks to maximise the quality of the final product
The company sells three nitrate- or nitrite-free bacon products:
- Organic Smoked Bacon – Nitrite Free (200g)
- Organic Nitrate Free Bacon – Back (200g)
- Organic Nitrite Free Streaky Bacon (100g)
Their organic back bacon has an impressive horseshoe shape with a prominent band of fat surrounding each slice.
Green Pasture Farms’ streaky bacon is cut into thin but wide rashers with an excellent ratio of fat to meat.
6. Ellises Farm
Ellises Farm makes traditional British meats made without nitrates, additives and preservatives. They sell their products across the UK through their online shop and locally at farmers markets in Dorset, Devon and Somerset.
Ellises Farm is located in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This picturesque environment is ideal for the Gloucester old spot pigs that live on the land and feed beneath the farm’s oak trees.
Uniquely, their bacon is cured with a traditional blend of juniper berries and bay leaves. Their smoked bacon is smoked in oak chippings. All Ellises Farm animals have a 100% GMO-free diet.
The Ellises Farm website lists four bacon products, including smoked and unsmoked varieties:
- Nitrate Free Back Bacon (4-6 rashers)
- Smoked Nitrate Free Back Bacon (4-6 rashers)
- Nitrate Free Streaky Bacon (10 rashers)
- Smoked Nitrate Free Streaky Bacon (10 rashers)
This company has a nationwide (including Northern Scotland) delivery charge of £11.90 at the time of writing, but does not have a minimum order amount.
Ellises Farm orders are butchered, prepared and packaged each Thursday for delivery on Friday by courier.
Recyclable cardboard boxes are used to package orders. The bacon is kept cool during transit using an ice pack.
7. Tablehurst Community Farm
Tablehurst Community Farm was a finalist of the BBC’s Food & Farming Awards 2022. They are a community-run co-operative farm located in Forest Row, a small village between Crawley and Royal Tunbridge Wells.
They rear and butcher their own beef, lamb, pork and chicken. All of their items and ingredients come from organic sources, using local produce wherever possible.
As a popular small enterprise, Tablehurst Community Farm meat is often snapped-up by eager customers soon after going on sale. Orders across the UK are sent by overnight courier.
All of their bacon is cured with a simple mix of sugar and salt—no nitrates, nitrites or other preservatives are added.
Tablehurst Community Farm currently lists four bacon products for sale, both smoked and unsmoked:
- Unsmoked Back Bacon (8 rashers)
- Smoked Back Bacon (8 rashers)
- Unsmoked Streaky Bacon (8 rashers)
- Smoked Streaky Bacon (8 rashers)
8. The Newt in Somerset
The Newt in Somerset is a 17th century garden estate, hotel, spa, cafe and farm shop located in Somerset, England. They offer horticultural workshops to the general public including espalier fruit tree training, fire pit building and cider production.
This business works closely with local producers to stock their farm shop with a wide variety of fresh produce. High-welfare Black, Oxford Sandy and Gloucester Old Spot pig breeds, reared in the local area, are used to prepare their bacon.
The Newt in Somerset only sells one type of bacon: Nitrate-free pork back bacon.
Salt and brown sugar are used to preserve the bacon rashers; no nitrates or nitrites are used. A mixture of natural herbs and berries flavourings are used to flavour The Newt in Somerset’s nitrate-free bacon. These are nutmeg, thyme, sage, juniper berries and bay leaves.
A dedicated full-time butcher prepares all cuts of meat, including bacon, by hand. Their nitrate-free pork back bacon is cured on The Newt estate and sold in packs of 6 rashers.
The Newt in Somerset is one of the few independent food retailers to give free delivery on all orders.
Waitrose is frequently rated as the best in-store supermarket. While typically more expensive than other brands, Waitrose products are of exceptionally high quality and made with excellent attention to detail.
Their meat comes from high-welfare animals that are raised without growth promoters or routine antibiotics.
Waitrose works carefully with food suppliers to stock the best British meats available. They stand out from other supermarkets by producing their own range of nitrite-free bacon. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether these are free from nitrates as well as nitrites.
Waitrose sells 250g packs of back bacon and streaky bacon; both smoked and unsmoked versions are available. Salt and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are used to improve the shelf life, taste and appearance of their bacon.
The Waitrose website lists four nitrite-free bacon products:
- Waitrose Made Without Nitrite Unsmoked Back Bacon (250g)
- Waitrose Made Without Nitrite Smoked Back Bacon (250g)
- Waitrose Made Without Nitrite Unsmoked Streaky Bacon (250g)
- Waitrose Made Without Nitrite Smoked Streaky Bacon (250g)
Dylan Kitson is a freelance writer and researcher based in Brighton, England. He’s a passionate promoter of all things health, working with supplement companies, health & fitness blogs and consumer review websites.