Panera Bread (PNRA) buys a lot of bacon each year, over 2 million pounds or the equivalent of 115 million slices, to be exact. Going forward, the star of the classic bacon, egg and cheese sandwich will now be "clean" at all Panera Bread locations. Clean is simply the buzzword that denotes food free of artificial ingredients, a term that has become popular among food companies trying to appeal to more health conscious eaters. Over a year in development, Panera's new bacon uses celery powder as a curing agent in place of additives typically found in fast food bacon such as sodium nitrite, sodium phospahte and sodium erythorbate. The bacon used by McDonald's (MCD) and Restaurant Brands' (QSR) Burger King chain, for example, both contain sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrite. Panera's new bacon strips tend to be a touch thicker than the ones they are replacing, according to a spokeswoman TheStreet talked with at an event held in of all places, New York City's Meatpacking District this week. In several taste tests, we also found the bacon less salty than standard fast food bacon or products pulled from the freezer cases at supermarkets. "If we are going to clean up the menu, we can't ignore bacon," Panera Bread's head chef Dan Kish told TheStreet.
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