Are sausages a healthy food choice?

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posted on

June 14, 2022

You cannot buy just any old sausage!

Most conventional sausages you might find on store shelves include fillers, preservatives like nitrates, artificial flavors or coloring, and a ton of sodium.

And, you generally have no idea where the meat in store bought sausage actually comes from. You don’t know the farming practices, what the animals were fed, or even how they lived. 

No matter where you are shopping for sausages, check the ingredients.

Here are some things to look for:

Does the label say it has or does not have nitrates and nitrites?

Many store bought sausages include nitrates and nitrites. This is a preservative to “keep the meat safe.” It also provides that characteristic pink color of hot dogs and other sausages. 

You might think it is easy enough to look for that on the label, but companies are getting tricky.

They will boldly state nitrate/and nitrite free on the front of the label, yet when you read the ingredients you will often find “celery powder” or “celery juice” listed. 

Stay away from the celery powder and juice ingredients too, as those are just naturally high sources of nitrates, and honestly I feel it is false advertisement. 

Are there ingredients you cannot pronounce?

If you are reading a sausage label and see something that you cannot pronounce or do not recognize, probably best to just put it back on the shelf.

These kinds of ingredients are typically food additives. Additives are man made or processed ingredients added to food, usually meant to keep food readily available and shelf stable for a longer period of time.

Sure, not all additives are necessarily bad for you. But, unless you are the type of person willing to do a deep dive into researching food additives, it’s best to just look for natural ingredients, plain and simple.

Do the sausages have natural casings or vegetable collagen casings?

When it comes to sausage casing there are two types.

Natural casing: This is made from animal intestines, this would be the most natural choice, and a choice that people have been using for thousands of years.

Natural casing provides a deeper, more rich flavor, and offers that characteristic sausage “snap” when you bite into it.

Collagen casing: This is an artificial casing. It is generally made up of collagen, cellulose, and/or synthesized films. 

Collagen casings are easier for the processor to work with, and why they are a popular choice among sausage makers. They have a neutral flavor and some people prefer the softer texture.

When choosing a sausage casing it is really up to personal preference.

Are all the spices listed? 

Look out for vaguely listed ingredients like “spice blends.”  

This could include anything! It could be a natural blend of spices, but often they contain other ingredients you may not suspect.

Many spice blends on the market today contain MSG (Monosodium Glutamate.) In short, MSG causes inflammation and can be damaging to your health. But this is a big topic for another newsletter.

MSG can be disguised under many ingredient names, including but not limited to:

  • hydrolyzed protein
  • sodium caseinate 
  • yeast extract 
  • textured protein
  • autolyzed yeast 

It may also be hidden in other listed ingredients including: 

  • malt extract 
  • natural flavoring
  • bouillon 
  • seasoning
  • spices 
  • soy protein isolate
  • whey protein concentrate

Other harmful ingredients to look out for in seasoning blends are refined salt, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and other various chemical additives. 

Like I said earlier, it is easiest to just look for simple ingredients that you recognize, rather than gaining a degree in food science trying to analyze the ingredients list.

Are “natural flavors” listed as an ingredient? 

Natural flavors, who even knows what that means? But, I will try to break it down. 

Natural flavors are complex mixtures created by specially trained food chemists known as flavorists.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations, natural flavors are created from substances extracted from these plant or animal sources (1).

Natural flavors are meant to enhance flavor, not to contribute actual nutritional value to foods.

These flavorings are extremely common in foods and beverages, and something to be aware of as they are claimed as “natural” but are actually a very processed product made up of a number of chemical compounds derived from natural sources.

Given the number of chemicals that may be part of a natural flavor mixture, adverse reactions are possible (2)

For people who have food allergies or follow special diets, it’s very important to know what substances a natural flavoring contains.

It really is just about eating SIMPLE.

Make it a habit to read the ingredients on the food you buy. That is a powerful first step for your health.

The best way to know you're getting healthy, quality sausages is to know your farmer! This takes the guesswork out of weeding through all the ingredients list.

When you read over the ingredients list for Wolf Oak Farm sausages, you will find nothing but pasture raised meat and organic herbs and spices clearly listed. 

Plus, we are transparent and share our soil building farming practices and product ingredients on our website for all to see.

When your farmers' standards match your standards, shopping and cooking is no longer a chore. Instead, it’s a relationship that connects people, animals, and earth. 

Eating healthy can be a joy and can absolutely include sausages…..just not any old sausage!


  1. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21
  2. Food-Induced Anaphylaxis: Role of Hidden Allergens and Cofactors

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