What are manufactured meats?

A plate full of quality cold cuts is preferable to many other products

Manufactured meats…mystery foods with strange ingredients

Almost everyone will have some form of manufactured meats in their fridge. (Unless you are vegan or vegetarian). Manufactured meats are a common staple food. Your family likes them, is used to them and expects them. But, do you know what is in them? Generally speaking, manufactured meats are mystery foods with strange ingredients. Read on, and be prepared to be shocked.

Ham, kabana, salami, sausages…

Of course, ham is a favourite for sandwiches. Kabana or salami cannot be missing from any decent party platter.
Not only that, but your BBQ is simply not complete without a dozen humble sausages sizzling away. Manufactured meats are everywhere, are a common part of the Australian diet, and can be of a good, or a terrible quality. Which meats are okay for your family, and what should you avoid, or at least be aware of?

What can you expect in manufactured meats?

What can you expect in manufactured meats? Good question. It all depends on the manufacturer, the type of meat, the quality and its shelf life.

Meat products ingredients are governed by regulations. However, regulations use the term “meat” loosely. Meat can be anything that is connected to an animal, except for offall. Unfortunately, everything found between the nose to the tip of the tail is regarded as meat, apart from the heart, tongue, liver, kidneys, brain and tripe. That leaves a lot of body parts you don’t really want not eat! Manufactured meats need to have a minimum of 50% “meat”, and no more than 50% fat.

In general, products that are hand-made or from an artisan source (such as special salamis, Polish sausages, and other delicatessen) may potentially have the best( i.e. cleanest) ingredients. Most often, these products are made with care, love and traditional recipes. However, be aware that salt will always be high. Sodium works as a preservation agent, and seals moisture in the product. Ask about the use of preservatives; real craftspeople won’t mind.

Not just sausages…

Sadly, it’s not just sausages filled with the cheapest and nastiest body parts permitted. The same goes for Frankfurters, hot dogs, cocktail sausages, Devon, Spam and the so-called “Smiley” or “Thomas the Tank Engine” sliced meats you can buy at any supermarket. Not only is the meat content of extremely low quality (that’s why it’s cheap), these products are also full of additives. The colours of the meat (red, pink, and mixed in the Smiley) stand out as quite un-natural. That’s because they are! Bright pink hotdogs look like that because of the use of nitrites/nitrates. Same for the patterns in kids’ cold meats. Other additives will be present too, making these foods very undesirable. Meat pies have come under scrutiny too, as they are well-known to contain huge amounts of fat; some pies only contain 23% meat! The rest is…you don’t want to know…

Nitrates, sulphates and sodium

Generally speaking, manufactured meats contain Nitrates/Nitrites, Sulphites and Sodium. Nitrites give meat a bright, fresh, red colour. Nitrates occur naturally in plants and foods and pose no risk. Chemical nitrites do. They are regarded as potential carcinogenic. Sulphur is a naturally occurring chemical too, and does no harm. In fact, it is an important component of the anti-inflammatory effect of foods such as cabbage and broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. It is also in eggs. However, sulphur dioxide (SO2) is approved as a preservative. As a result, sulphites can cause severe allergic reactions in those who are sulphur sensitive.

Shape, colour, texture…your clues to manufactured meat choices

Let’s be real. The shape, colour and texture of the manufactured meat can tell you a lot. Is it a natural ham-off-the-bone? Great. If you like ham, enjoy! Is it a square, pre-sliced piece of meat, in exactly the right size to fit a sandwich? Run as fast as you can…Surely, no pig is born with a square bum the size of your bread. This is not real. This is compressed meat. Highly likely, it’s injected with salty water. Water increases weight, (increases profit) and salt holds the water! Furthermore, expect preservatives for long shelf-life(sulphites) and nitrites to give it colour. The same applies to the Smiley and Thomas sliced meats. No meat is born that way!

Being smart about manufactured meats

Being smart about manufactured meats will help you determine what you permit in your body. Want some bacon on a Sunday morning? Of course, not really a great food, full of sodium and the above-mentioned preservatives, but view it as a treat. Not too often, then it’s (sort of) okay. Serving a party platter? Look for alternatives to pre-packed mass-produced hams, etc. Try Prosciutto or Parma ham( expensive but worth it) or local ham-off-the-bone. Same for salami; good quality hand-made, but accept some sulphites and nitrates as well. Ask your local butcher or deli if you can read the label of the product if available. Avoid hot dogs, cocktail sausages, Devon, Smileys and the lot. After all, you can live without those!

Choose wisely, look for quality over price, and enjoy your occasional manufactured meats as a treat

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