The great British public has rather got into the habit of eating dodgy cheap food.
We’re happy to pay the least amount possible, kidding ourselves that the contents must be OK, because reputable supermarkets just wouldn’t allow us to eat anything dubious or dangerous. Well the horsemeat scandal and other food scares have shown us they don’t even know where their food comes from or what’s in it.
So we have no choice, if you want to feed your family properly start reading the packaging, all the clues you need are there, and as the famous advert says, our food “does exactly what it says on the tin”. But we’re still tuned in to cheap food and in a truly inconsistent way…£2.49 for a Starbucks? No problem. £2.49 on a packet of sausages? Blimey, that’s expensive, you must be joking. Our attitudes don’t really make sense.
In fact sausages are a good example. Why pay double the price for premium sausages, when you can get a brand name you’ve heard of, for half the price? It’s a false economy that’s why.
The best-selling brand of sausages in the UK sell well over £50 million worth a year. They’re supposedly made to an Irish recipe, which evokes images of a secret combination of ingredients mixed lovingly and passed down from generation to generation. However, they aren’t available for sale in Ireland, and I’m not quite sure where you would get some nice old Irish lady to come up with this mixture; 41% pork, water, 10% pork fat, rusk, potato starch and soya protein concentrate. The remaining 2% contains salt, stabilisers, diphosphates, guar gum, antioxidants, sodium metabisulphate and cochineal.
The pork element can legally be skeletal muscle with attached fat and connective tissue. The attached fat can legally be 30% of the meat, and the connective tissue 25%. So, a pork sausage could contain only a quarter of what I would consider to be ‘proper’ meat. Pork fat is added separately and around a fifth is water. Phosphates help to keep the water in and soya helps to keep the fat in. Rusk gives bulk and helps to bind the contents.
As to the rest; guar gum is a cheap thickener and stabiliser, antioxidants prevent discolouring, sodium metabisulphate is a preservative to extend shelf life and cochineal is a colouring because you want nice pinky sausages not grey ones, which is what these actually look like.
These sausages, and others like it, cost around £1.50 a dozen, and weigh 340g. Some of my favourite sausages cost around £1.74 for six and weigh 280g. Is the cost differential a con?
Good food producers feed their pigs on the best possible wheatgerm and the best milk. Often the meat content is 95% (look for that on the packet), using prime shoulder and belly pork trimmed of fat. The remainder may be fresh herbs, wine or garlic, but definitely no preservatives, no colouring and no rusk (check that out on the packet too). If you visit their farms you’ll see the pigs roaming free.
The moral of the story is…don’t buy a dozen sausages costing
£1.50. That probably works out at 57g of proper meat per £1, and your children will be eating 171g of other stuff I’d rather not think about. Buy the so called ‘expensive’ sausages. For a £1 you’ll get at least 153g of real meat and another 10g of food that you’d recognise.
Your kids will thank you for it (eventually) and they’ll stay full