Bacon Affair

Bacon and eggs, served steaming. The iconic breakfast looks like such an American tradition as the Statue of Liberty. But before the 20s, neither food was part of the Americans’ morning routine

How did eggs and bacon become the American quintessential breakfast, embedded in popular culture and replicated on menus all over the world as the typical meal of the land of Uncle Sam? The answer is in Public Relations. Or rather, in the "father", Edward Bernays.

From PR to the plate

We were in the post-World War I, living in the “Roaring 20s,” and America vibrated with economic and social thriving.

The Beech-Nut Packing Company thrived in the newborn consumer society. Producer of several food products, from chewing gum to peanut butter, the company wanted to promote its sales of a very specific product: bacon.

Edward Bernays was the ideal man for this mission. At the time being a young professional of Public Relations, he was already successful in several areas, from politics to soaps.

To fulfil Beech-Nut Packing Company’s challenge, he decided to focus on a very specific meal: breakfast.

Bernays conducted a survey in which he revealed that the morning meal of Americans usually included only “coffee, maybe a roll and orange juice.” The challenge? To get Americans to eat bacon for breakfast.

The campaign developed by Bernays focused on a human need with great influence on the behaviour of North-Americans: the concern for their safety and well-being.

The campaign that changed the menu

The PR professional began to question: “Who influences what the public eats?” The answer was in the influencers entitled to such: doctors and scientists.

Bernays asked a doctor what would be better recommended: the traditional light breakfast of Americans or a more substantial meal? The expert chose the second option.

Bernays’ justification was that “the body loses energy during the night and needs it during the day.”

This way, it would be beneficial for your health to take a more caloric breakfast. In which the bacon, obviously, could not be missing.

Bernays asked the doctor to write to another 5,000 experts and ask the same question: what is better for health, a slight or substantial breakfast? 4,500 replied, stating his thesis.

Armed with a scientific justification and from the medical community authority, Bernays took the story to newspapers and started a food re-education campaign, one of the first in the History of "spin."



Health is in the bacon

“4,500 physicians urge heavy breakfast in order to improve the health of the American people,” cried the headlines.

And of course, bacon and eggs were associated with a substantial breakfast, which would bring vitality and strength to millions of Americans.

PR widened its field of action to food, and served a campaign dressed with a handful of media attention that came to change the habits of the American society forever.

In order to increase their energy levels, the population began to opt for this type of food to begin their day in the best way.

The campaign orchestrated by Bernays was a success and bacon sales of Beech-Nut Packing Company soared.

More than that, the habit of consuming eggs and bacon for breakfast was so deeply entrenched in the routine of Americans that it already is part of the culture of the country.

The most American of the meals

Bernays’ campaign became iconic for successfully using information from the medical and scientific community, in which the public trusts.

Through his Communication strategy, the PR specialist could effectively change permanently the behaviour of society.

Bacon consumption for breakfast continues today, associated with an image of vitality and energy and millions of Americans do not give up on this food to start their day.

In the collective imagination and in popular culture, eggs and bacon are forever associated with the most typical of American menus.

Almost a century after Bernays’ campaign, 70 percent of the consumed bacon in the United States continues to be eaten for breakfast.

A meal served on a platter by PR.