WASHINGTON – Recognizing America’s love affair with bacon, the American Meat Institute released a new brochure this week titled “Six Degrees of Bacon” that intends to answer some common questions about bacon. This brochure is the first in a series that will spotlight popular meat products.

The Chinese began salting pork bellies as early as 1,500 B.C. Today, the refrigerated bacon category is a $2.1 billion industry with volume sales up 7.5% in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 24, 2010. And it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

“Bacon is enjoying an almost cult-like following these days,” said Janet Riley, A.M.I. senior vice president of public affairs and member services. “It is the subject of dozens of Facebook fan pages and bacon blogs with tens of thousands of members. Foods as diverse as vodka and chocolate are flavored with it. Pork bacon is listed as #7 on JW Thompson’s list of “100 Things to Watch in 2010,” a list that also includes electric cars, 3-D television and Japan’s first lady.”

A.M.I.’s “Six Degrees of Bacon” explains that the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich became popular when fresh lettuce and tomatoes became available year-round after World War II. The guide also strives to answer six commonly asked questions about this popular cut of pork:

? Where and when did the term bacon originate?

? Where does bacon come from and how is it made?

? What is Canadian bacon?

? What percentage of bacon is eaten during breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack?

? What are the top-selling bacon brands?

? What are the top 10 bacon consuming markets in the United States?

“Most people don’t know a whole lot about [bacon’s] history, or even where it comes from,” Ms. Riley said. “Our new guide pays tribute to this American classic.” 

The “Six Degrees of Bacon” guide is available on the Internet.