Eat Drink Better

Published on October 11th, 2012 | by Heather Carr


October Unprocessed, Day Eleven – Removing the “Processed” from Processed Meats

Turkey Sandwich

Sandwiches are popular around my house. They’re easy to make, involve no heat in the kitchen (although in October, that’s not such a big deal), and a sandwich can be a complete meal. Of course, not every sandwich needs to have meat, but can an omni eater find unprocessed lunchmeats?

I could just roast a chicken or turkey and slice it myself. To keep it unprocessed, I would have to start with a bird without the “added broth and other enhancers”. Those other enhancers can be a lot of things, usually salt and water, plus sodium phosphate, but oftentimes the producers will add flavorings and seasonings.  The solution is injected into the meat during processing, then it sits around for days, changing the texture of the meat. Besides the chemicals that I don’t want in my food, water is heavy and increases the price paid for the meat.

The biggest problem with starting with a whole bird is that I would have several pounds of meat for sandwiches. Usually, one of those six ounce packages of lunchmeat will last my family for a week.

Prepackaged sandwich meats with unprocessed ingredients were not easy for me to find. Applegate has some sliced roast beef made only with organic beef, water, salt, and pepper. This is some of the best roast beef I’ve had in my sandwich that wasn’t homemade. Applegate’s ham is also unprocessed, and…well, that’s it. Just those two meats in that one brand.

The chicken and turkey sliced lunchmeats from Applegate were nearly unprocessed, with the exception of carrageenan. Carrageenan is used in lean lunchmeats as a substitute for fat and to retain water.

A lot of carrageenan is produced using the same process that has been used for thousands of years, but on a larger scale. Some of it is produced in a manner I’m not sure I could do in my kitchen. I’m not sure how Applegate’s carrageenan is produced, so I’ll leave their turkey and chicken off my list. Carrageenan has other potential problems, too.

One food that I never expected to find unprocessed was hot dogs. Applegate had the answer there, too. Their Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog contains only organic grass-fed beef, water, and a long list of spices (that are actually listed individually). After I thought about it, I realized that hot dogs should be easy to make with only unprocessed ingredients. Hot dogs are simply a much-maligned sausage and people make sausage at home all the time without splashing in any sodium nitrite or hydrolyzed soy protein.

Well, there you have it. I found three ready-to-eat lunchmeats that fit the October Unprocessed Kitchen Test.

Turkey sandwich photo via Shutterstock

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About the Author

Heather Carr loves food, politics, and innovative ways to make the world a better place. She counts Jacques Pepin and Speed Racer among her inspirations. You can find her on Facebook or .

2 Responses to October Unprocessed, Day Eleven – Removing the “Processed” from Processed Meats

  1. My husband eats meat, and he gets the Applegate turkey slices for his lunches sometimes. He will be thrilled that they also have an unprocessed hot dog!

  2. Heather Carr says:

    Applegate turkey slices are delicious. I get those sometimes, too.

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