However recently I did a deep dive into these seemingly innocent party favourites for A Current Affair and boy do they harbour some nasty little secrets. Knowledge is power so read on before choosing snags for your next meal.
Are sausages good for you?
When it comes to nutritious foods, sausages come in low on the list. They tend to be very high in fat, high in salt, nitrates, sulphates, filled with poor quality meat, binders and fillers. Recent research from the World Health Organisation shows that eating 50g of processed meat (such as sausages) per day raises your colorectal cancer risk by 18%. That’s pretty scary! You would be much better off eating unprocessed lean meat over sausages.
However sausages are definitely a crowd pleaser, and can be helpful when trying to feed fussy kids meat, so it’s no wonder they are so popular.
What is in sausages:
Meat, fat, fillers and seasoning in a case which is often made from intestines. Fillers such as breadcrumbs started to be used after WWII when there were meat shortages. Fillers also mean less meat is needed making them cheaper to produce. Fillers and binders are usually made up of rice, flour, maze, hydrolysed vegetable protein, potato or bread crumbs. More fillers are often used in mass produced sausages.
70% of a sausage should be made of meat, Food standards Australia specifies that at least half of that 70% must be made from fat free meat flesh, meaning the remaining 50% is fat, so often your sausage actually contains less than 30% meat, and A LOT of fat.
The other thing to be aware of is that unless the type of meat is identified, you may be eating ‘mystery meat.’ In Australia, when you see the word ‘meat’ in the ingredients list, it refers to any part of; buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goal, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit, sheep, slaughtered other than a wild state. Mmmmm who doesn’t love a bit of camel for lunch! Offal (brain, heart, kidney, liver tongue) is allowed although it must be declared in the ingredients list when used.
Sausages from reputable butchers can be healthier, but be aware that unpackaged sausages from butchers (the ones you see in the display trays) aren’t required to have a nutrition label, but the butchers are required by law to give the ingredients if asked (and it’s worth asking).
Sausage casings are made up of intestines or industry processed protein usually made from pig hide.
What to look for:
A fresh good quality sausage means you will see a mixture of lean meat and fat marbled, the skin should be plump and dry (avoid slimy sausages) and you should be barely able to see the skin. A natural casing will not be as shiny as a processed one.
What is the Healthiest Sausage to Choose?
When shopping follow these guidelines:
- Extra lean chicken sausages tend to be the healthier option.
- Less than 5g saturated fat per 100g
- Less than 450mg sodium per 100g
- At least 70% meat
- Ingredients list the type of meat, for example beef, chicken. If it just says ‘meat’ think of it as mystery meat.
- As few ingredients as possible.
Other Ways to Make Sausages More Healthy
- Make your own home made sausages or rissoles instead. Here’s a great, quick home made sausage recipe
- Grill rather than fry.
- Poke holes to let some fat run out.
- Eat once per fortnight or less.
Watch my A Current Affair segment on Sausages for more info.