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Panera is altering your bacon, but for a good, tasty reason

Panera Bread has cleaned up its bacon.

It's part of an effort to complete its pledge to ban an extensive list of additives from its menu by the end of this year.

Don't fret, bacon lovers. The cured meat is still smoky, salty and "bacon-y," according to Sara Burnett, director of food policy and wellness at Panera.

Here's what has changed as of this week:

  • Panera's ditched additives like sodium nitrite, sodium phosphate and sodium erythorbate, which are used to cure the meat, in favor of celery powder.
  • The company has removed liquid smoke and artificial flavoring and, instead, uses extra applewood smoke to create a "deeper, more complex bacon flavor," according to Panera.
  • The bacon is herb-brined in sea salt, sugar and thyme extract.
  • Trimmings from the cut bacon strips are cooked and used as crumbles for Panera's salads and other menu items.
  • The bacon slice is now 25 percent thicker, so that it won't slide out of your sandwich.
  • Once cooked, the bacon won't be stored in a refrigerator. Instead, it will be taken out of the oven and served at room temperature so that it remains crispy.

"Clean bacon is an example of how you can amplify when you simplify," Ron Shaich, Panera's founder and CEO, said in a statement. "By removing artificial additives, we made a switch to better ingredients, better texture and, ultimately, better flavor. We're not just offering clean bacon; it's bacon that has been elevated in every way."

With the rollout of its new bacon, Panera has successfully completed about 95 percent of its clean food journey, Burnett said. The company still has a few alterations to make in its bakery section before the end of the year to meet the goal.

"Then we can stop calling it clean food and just call it food again," said Dan Kish, Panera's head chef, and the mastermind behind the new bacon.

Of course, just because Panera's new bacon is "clean" — free from additives — doesn't mean you should overindulge, he said.

"Clean doesn't equal healthy," he said. "Bacon is still bacon. It's from the belly of the hog. It's fatty, it's delicious, but you shouldn't eat a lot of it every day."