Healthy Food

The Great British Banger: What’s in a sausage?

Liz writes:

Sausages are the nation’s favourite supper. Marketed as a meaty treat, the reality is that most sausages are an appallingly unhealthy concoction of fat, gristle, rusk, salt, synthetic colourings, flavourings and potentially harmful preservatives.

In the UK, those labelled ‘pork sausages’ must contain a minimum of 42% pork (much less than half the sausage) but this ‘pork’ can be made up of 30% fat and 25% connective tissue (leaving around 30% actual pork meat). The legal minimum is even less for the cheapest supermarket sausages, which don’t have the necessary meat content to be described as ‘pork sausages’ and so are simply labelled ‘sausages.’

These only have to contain 30% ‘pork’ (less than 20% meat, if you discount the fat). Of this, the pork comes from all the bits you may find unsavoury just reading about, let alone eating, such as ears, snouts and feet. This ‘meat’ includes connective tissue blasted off the carcass with high pressure water jets, known as mechanically recovered meat (MRM) and meat slurry.

These ingredients are then mixed into a mush together with preservatives E250 (sodium nitrite) which has been linked to stomach and bowel cancer, E451 (potassium and sodium triphosphates), E452 (polyphosphates) and E120 (carmine – the reddish pink colour that comes from grinding up tiny beetles). This is then stuffed into skins, most commonly made from pig intestines but can also be made from collagen, cellulose or even plastic.

If the ‘meat’ and additive content of these industrially produced bangers isn’t enough to put you of, a BBC study found that a serving of sausages dished up in schools and hospitals(!) also contained a whopping 25% fat and a gram of salt – that’s more fat than a doughnut and more salt than a glass of seawater. Personally, I don’t eat sausages unless I know where they’ve come from and I ask my children to avoid eating them when they’re out too (e.g. at school). And as for most frankfurters – don’t even go there without reading the label.

So what to buy? Well, all sausages score poorly on the nutritional scale, but some are less bad for us than others.

For a smarter sausage, the simplest solution is to buy organic. These are made from prime cuts of meat from pigs reared in the outdoors, allowed to roam and root freely in the fresh air. This freedom of movement, together with an organic diet and high standards of animal welfare mean the meat is naturally matured for a better flavour. Yes, they do cost more – but much better for us to eat fewer, higher quality bangers.


Waitrose Duchy Organic Pork Sausages (85% pork shoulder and belly meat).
Helen Browning Organic Speedy Sausages (96% pork; gluten and dairy free).

All have a high quality, British meat content and taste delicious too.

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Try this fiery sage, squash and sausage traybake – perfect for sharing with your friends and family.