Bacon comes home to roost

by Lawrence Aylward
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Godshall's poultry bacon
Godshall’s chicken bacon is popular, but not as popular as the company's turkey bacon.

Godshall’s Quality Meats has put the bawk, bawk, bawk in bacon. The Telford, Pa.-based company has offered chicken bacon since 2008.

Godshall’s, a family business that was founded in 1945, does a different twist on bacon by offering chicken, turkey and beef varieties, but no pork bacon.

“Our alternative bacon offerings started in 1994 with beef bacon and turkey bacon,” says Ron Godshall, the company’s vice president of manufacturing. “The popularity of those products established us as a go-to source for alternative proteins. We’ve worked with a variety of retailers as a result.”

The chicken variety is a rare bird in the world of bacon. Godshall says chicken bacon customers fall into two general groups – people who don’t want pork for religious reasons and those avoiding red meat as part of a healthier lifestyle.

“The chicken bacon customer is a consumer that is looking for less fat or non-pork bacon but still like bacon fried crispy,” Godshall says. “Chicken offers slightly more fat than turkey and can be fried harder for that crisp texture. For some folks it’s an acceptable compromise between pork and turkey.”

The company had requests from its retail and private-label customers to introduce chicken so it decided to give it a try.

“We represent a different chicken bacon just as we do a different turkey bacon because we make whole thigh muscle bacon in our own smokehouses,” Godshall says, noting the company also offers uncured and antibiotic-free varieties as private label and co-packing options.

While it’s popular, Godshall doesn’t expect the company’s chicken bacon sales to eclipse turkey bacon anytime soon.

“But we promote it in two of the most effective ways we know to build its audience,” Godshall says. “We let folks know it’s there and how to use it with recipes on social media and our website, and we get out there to festivals and events and other sampling opportunities.”

People react to chicken bacon the same way they reacted to turkey bacon when it debuted several decades ago, Godshall says, noting a person will cock one eyebrow and say “chicken bacon?” upon seeing the product.

The best way to turn that skeptic into a consumer is to give them a taste of the product, Godshall adds.

“Lots of folks say chicken tastes the most like the pork bacon they’re used to,” he adds.

There are a few processing challenges that come with manufacturing chicken bacon.

“Chicken is the most fragile protein that we process. Special care has to be taken to keep it cold and not over work the product which will decrease protein bind,” Godshall explains.

Godshall’s beef bacon also has its processing challenges, mainly sourcing the product.

“It is made from a whole-muscle beef naval,” Godshall says. “Higher grades of choice will contain too much fat in the finished product whereas ungraded product is lean but will not have the desired bite and texture.”

Godshall’s sells its bacon products, as well as scrapple and liverwurst, in 48 states and a few foreign countries.

“In terms of marketing, we have a national sales force for both retail and foodservice backed up by an aggressive campaign to get the word out with electronic media,” Godshall says.

Godshall’s also pursues every public relations angle it can to promote its products.

“That effort has gotten us on national TV and in hundreds of news outlets,” Godshall says.

In 2016, the company plans to advertise to consumers via their mobile devices.

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